Aluminium and Tinplate packaging in the EU - suitability aspects for food contact

by Dawn M. Turner on January 18, 2017

Aluminium-and-tinplate-packagin-in-the-EU.jpgIn this article, we will address the guidelines that are required for aluminium and tinplate packaging in the EU that are suitable for food contact.

The Council of Europe Resolution CM/RES(2013)9 on Metals and Alloys Used in Food Contact Materials and Articles was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 June 2013. This Guideline for Metals and Alloys provides information and support to professionals in the food contact material industry, authorities in Member States and stakeholders who are responsible for compliance with Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 and specifically, the requirements presented in Article 3 (1).

The Resolution amends the Guideline for Metals and Alloys that was first published in 2001 and revised in 2002 with a more concise technical guideline that recommends specific release limits (SRL) of metals that are used suitable for food contact. Additionally, CM/Res(2013)9 outlines analytical methods and a prototype for a declaration of conformity to be used in evaluating metals for food contact use. The assessment criteria presented in the SRLs for the 23 metals covered in this Resolution are much stricter than those presented in (EC) No 1881/2006.

Making Aluminium Suitable for Food Contact

Aluminium and tinplate packaging in the EU - suitability aspects for food contactAs the third, most abundant element found in the Earth’s crust, aluminium is found within many minerals and occurs naturally in many foodstuffs. In its purest form, it has excellent forming and working properties, but lacks mechanical strength. Because of this, aluminium is generally used to produce alloys.

Aluminium can be found in unprocessed foods, such as eggs, raw cabbage, cucumbers, corn and apples. Dietary exposure to aluminium commonly occurs through beverages, cereals and vegetables that are eaten every day. Under Directive 95/2/EC, the use of aluminium salts is limited in its use as a food additive, which is commonly used in products, such as scones. Aluminium may also be used as a confectionary decoration.

Widely used in food contact materials, aluminium is used in cooking pots, utensils and packaging products, including cans and food trays. Aluminium alloys that are used in food contact materials may be made from copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, silicon or zinc as specified in European Standard EN 601 and 602. Many of these products are coated with a resin-based coating to prevent corrosion from oxidation or chemical reaction with acidic ingredients, which could release aluminium into the contained foodstuffs.

The P-SC-EMB has set a release limit for aluminium that is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) to be followed with food contact materials and articles that are produced with aluminium. Additionally, the following recommendations must be complied with when using aluminium materials and articles suitable for food contact:

  • Limiting use of uncoated aluminium when storing acidic, alkaline or salty, liquid foodstuffs; for example, fruit juice or lye dough products.
  • Labeling that alerts the end consumer that uncoated aluminium has been used, including retail packs.
  • Requiring producers of uncoated aluminium to provide information on using their products with acidic, alkaline or salty foodstuffs

Making Tin Suitable for Food Contact

Tin is commonly released into the air in small quantities through the combustion of fossil fuels. This material can be found be found within the Earth’s crust and tin-bearing minerals, such as tinstone, which is the most common source of tin production. Tin can also be sourced by recovering it from previously produced cans and waste from tinplate manufacturing. The use of tinplating in cans has decreased in use in the United States over the years, but it still is commonly used in packaging in the EU.

Inorganic tin can be found in many foodstuffs, with higher concentrations generally found in canned foodstuffs, where it is released from the dissolution of tinplate. This accounts for most of the tin that occurs within a normal diet. Acidic ingredients in foodstuffs such as stewed fruits or cheese increase the possibility of tin release in steel containers that receive a tinplated coating as is in one of its most common uses. Often the tinplate is coated with a resin-based coating to help prevent the release of tin into foodstuffs.

It is recommended that food contact with tin materials that are exposed to air be avoided because of the degradation of tinplate upon exposure to air. Therefore, consumers are advised to not store food in opened tinplated cans. Higher levels of tin ingestion can cause gastric irritation according to guidelines set in Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006.

How Desjardin Addresses CM/RES(2013)9 and Other Safety Regulations

Desjardin takes extra care to avoid any reaction of ingredients of products that will be packaged in their aluminium or tinplate packaging for the safety of consumers. To make these materials suitable for food contact, we coat aluminium and tin plates with a transparent “food varnish” that has been explicitly approved for the EU and complies with all guidelines provided in CM/RES(2013)9.


The postings in this blog section do not necessarily represent Desjardin's positions, strategies or opinions.

References and Further Reading

Photo: "European Union Flags 2", Courtesy of Thijs ter Haar, Flickr, (CC BY 2.0)


Topics: Metal Packaging

EN Blog Sidebar CTA