German Ordinance on Mineral Oil in Food Packaging Consultation

01 December 2014

This article is part of the Food Law Digest - Fourth Edition

The German Federal Government is currently reviewing comments it received during a ministerial association consultation (Verbändeanhörung) on a proposed ordinance dealing with the migration of mineral oil components from food contact materials and articles.

If the proposed so-called 22nd Regulation Amending the German Commodities Ordinance (Mineral Oil Ordinance - Mineralölverordnung) enters into force as drafted, it may establish a new de facto standard for food packaging made of paper, cardboard or paperboard, in particular packaging made from recycled paper, also outside of Germany.

The planned Mineral Oil Ordinance revision is part of a wider review of the German Consumer Goods Ordinance (Bedarfsgegenständeverordnung), including also the so-called 21st Ordinance Amending the German Consumer Goods Ordinance, commonly referred to as the Printing Ink Ordinance (Druckfarbenverordnung) which shall contain a list of substances which may be used in the manufacture of printing inks for food contact materials.

The latest draft Mineral Oil Ordinance goes back to earlier initiatives to set new limits for mineral oil hydrocarbons in food contact materials.  The latest draft dated 24 July 2014 was actually the third major draft, after drafts from 2011 and 2013.

The planned ordinance shall be issued by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, in agreement with the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, and the consent of the Federal Council (Bundesrat).  The ordinance will also require notification to the European Commission pursuant to Directive 98/34/EC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations and of rules on Information Society services.

Comments on the consultation had to be submitted by the associations by 17 September 2014.

In light of the potential effects of the proposed Mineral Oil Ordinance for food packaging, both the underlying scientific justification as well as compliance with European law have been called into questions. 

In particular, Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 on Materials and Articles Intended to Come into Contact with Food and the free movement of goods principles set important limits to national law making in this area.