Although there is a wide range of applications, the proportion of packaging made from uncoated and untreated paper and board and coming into direct contact with food bought by the end-consumer was estimated to be less than 3.5% (3.39% is the actual value quoted) of all direct contact food packaging in the EU-15 in 2000 (Ref. 1). Compared to other direct contact food packaging materials, for example plastics (estimated proportion around 70%), this estimate of 3.5%, less than 0.9 kg paper per person per year, is relatively low and thus consumer exposure is similarly low. In addition direct contact is primarily with dry food (approximately 50%) and with food that is to be peeled or washed (approximately 30%) so only the remaining 20% is for contact with moist and/or fatty food.
Uncoated and untreated paper and board is not suitable to pack food with very high moisture content (for example liquid food or wet chilled products), since exposure to high moisture will cause disintegration of the material. For these food types coated paper and board is commonly used, and in the great majority of applications direct food contact is with a plastic layer. The proportion of packaging made from coated paper and board was estimated to be 17% (equivalent to 4.4 kg per person per year) of all direct contact food packaging in the EU-15 in 2003 (Ref. 2). Between 70-80% of all coated paper and board that is in direct contact with food is liquid packaging board (used for instance in cartons for milk and beverages) and 75% of this has aluminium foil as a barrier layer in the laminate structure that will prevent migration from the paper and board. If liquid packaging board containing an aluminium layer is excluded, the proportion of coated paper and board packaging used for food contact is 7.6% (equivalent to 1.93 kg per person per year).
The paper and board sector has a long-standing commitment to the protection of human health and the interests of consumers through the provision of safe and functionally effective materials. The sector has cooperated over a long period of time with government, both at national and supra-national level, and with other regulators to ensure necessary measures for consumer protection. Over the past thirty years the basis for this measure at the European level has been Directives and most recently a Regulation concerning materials and articles intended to come into contact with food (Directives 76/893/EEC, 89/109/EEC and Regulation No (EC) 1935/2004).