The Irish Food Safety Authority has sounded a warning about the pending introduction of hi-tech packaging across the EU, aimed at extending the shelf life.
According to acting chief executive Alan Reilly, consumers can expect an early market launch of what is termed ‘active packaging’ and ‘intelligent packaging’. The former releases approved additives into food and prolongs shelf life by inhibiting the growth of micro-organisms, while the latter, through change of colour, indicates whether food is fresh.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee on enterprise and small business in Dublin, Reilly said although the developments were a welcome advance for the shopper, strict controls were needed to minimise any threat to public health and to ensure confidence in food safety.
“Recent incidents, such as the contamination of babyfood with a substance migrating from packaging materials, highlight the absolute need for legislative powers to be available to competent authorities in this regard,” he warned.
“We also want to see adequate labelling on foodstuffs to detail the packaging materials so that consumers can make informed choices.”
He told the meeting the Irish Authority had been in contact with its European counterpart to ensure “rigorous toxicological assessments are carried out on substances used to manufacture packaging materials”.
All packaging material could potentially transfer some of its constituents into the food it is in contact with, he said. Because of that, EU states would have to update food legislation to comply with the new system.
Reilly also said food business audits by the authority had found imported beef and salmon passed off to consumers as Irish. He warned that in future offending companies would face prosecution.