EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF)

Publication date: 18.10.2012

Author: EFSA

According to the Commission Regulation (EC) No 450/2009 of the Commission of European Communities of  29 May 2009 on active and intelligent materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, substances responsible for the active or intelligent function need first to be evaluated by the EFSA before their inclusion into a positive Community list. The procedure of the evaluation and the tasks of EFSA are described in the Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

In the context of this evaluation procedure, following a request from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Netherlands, the Panel on  Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on sodium carboxymethylcellulose, bentonite and aluminium potassium sulphate dodecahydrate, with the respective  CAS No 9004-32-4, 1302-78-9 and 7784-24-9, for use as a moisture and liquid absorber in food packaging. The dossier was submitted by the applicant, Maxwell Chase technologies LLC Atlanta USA.

According to the applicant, the absorber is a mixture composed of sodium carboxymethylcellulose granules (50 to 90%), bentonite clay granules (10 to 30%) and aluminium potassium sulphate (1 to 4%). The mixture is incorporated up to 38% w/w in articles such as pads, trays, containers, boxes, pouches, bags, lids. After water absorption, a firm gel is formed. The mixture and the gel formed do not come in direct contact with food being separated from it by a permeable non-woven fabric.

To measure the capacity of the absorbent, absorbency tests were performed. Moreover, it was demonstrated that in real conditions of use overload does not occur.  If the intended use is respected, then the absorbent capacity is not exceeded and the migration of the active substances is expected to be negligible and it would not give rise to a safety concern.

The CEF Panel concluded that the substances sodium carboxymethylcellulose and bentonite do not raise a safety concern for the consumer when used as moisture and liquid absorbers. Aluminium potassium sulphate dodecahydrate can be used in formulations with sodium carboxymethylcellulose (50-90% w/w) and bentonite (10-30% w/w) at levels up to 4% w/w. In all cases the absorbers must be placed in components in the food packaging preventing them from being in direct contact with food and the fluid absorption capacity of these absorbers must not be exceeded.