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CEF approves oxygen absorber mixture

By Joe Whitworth+

09-May-2014

EFSA panel issues two scientific opinions
EFSA panel issues two scientific opinions

A mixture used as an oxygen absorber in labels has been approved by a panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) said it does not raise a safety concern when used in oxygen absorbers in labels, which prevent the physical release of their content into the food.

A safety assessment of the active substances iron powder, activated carbon, calcined kaolin, sodium chloride, polyacrylic acid, sodium salt, crosslinked and calcium chloride, used in mixture which is packed into labels, for absorbing oxygen from the headspace surrounding packed food was done.

Oxygen absorber backing

CEF backed the mixture for use as oxygen absorber in labels based on a dossier submitted on behalf of Atmosphère Control (ATCO), France.

According to the applicant, the substances are mixed and the active formulation is put on a multilayer film made from porous polyethylene terephthalate (PET) / nonwoven spunbonded high density polyethylene (HDPE) and covered by a multilayer film polyethylene terephthalate (PET) / polyethylene (PE).

ACTO said the oxygen absorber system needs a humid atmosphere (Aw > 0.8) to activate chemical reactions but must not be put in contact with liquids or acidic food (pH < 4.5 ) or entirely covered by food as the system loses its performance.

Both films are heat-sealed on four sides and labels are stuck inside the packaging.

The active ingredient responsible for the oxygen absorber function is iron which reacts with oxygen, removing it from the primary packaging. The other chemicals provide adequate media to facilitate the reaction.

Labels containing the oxygen absorber system can be used for foods such as processed-meat products, precooked dishes, delicatessen, cheese, bakery, cakes and pastry products. These foods are generally stored at +4 °C and shelf-lives vary from days to months.

The panel concluded that under the intended conditions of use where there is no contact with liquid food or foods that have an external aqueous phase on the surface, the constituents of the mixture will not migrate because they are not volatile.

When placed in the headspace of packaging or used in direct contact with foods, the labels should not intentionally or unintentionally come into direct contact with liquid foods or foods that have an external aqueous phase on the surface such as sliced fruits.

Post-consumer PET opinion

In a separate opinion, CEF looked at the safety assessment of the recycling process RPC Cobelplast which is based on Bandera technology .

Input is washed and dried PET flakes originating from collected post-consumer PET containers, mainly bottles, containing no more than 5% of PET from non-food consumer applications.

Through the process, post-consumer washed and dried PET flakes are mixed with typically 50% virgin PET flakes before being extruded under vacuum into sheets.

Considering the high temperatures used during the extrusion, the possibility of contamination by microorganisms can be discounted, said CEF.

The panel concluded that the recycled PET from the process intended to be used up to 100% for the manufacture of recycled thermoformed trays and containers for contact with foodstuffs for long term storage at room temperature is not considered of safety concern.