Engineered plastics have been making strong headway into food and beverage production, processing and packaging markets because they are light, tough, low-friction and harmonise well with automation and rapid washdown needs to achieve efficiencies while maintaining hygiene and safety standards.

But – just like metals – not all plastics are right for all tasks, says engineered thermoplastics authority Laurie Green of Cut To Size Plastics. “It is one thing to know the relevant Australian and New Zealand Code and the guiding principles contained in AS2070-1999, but the onus still remains on the user of materials to ensure they are fit for purpose. This is a fast-changing field, and the devil can be in the detail,” says Mr Green, who, as Managing Director of Cut To Size, has seen more than 40 years of change and improvement in this specialised domain.

Mr Green recently hosted global engineered plastics leader Wefapress to further strengthen Cut To Size’s long association with the company, which is joining with Cut To Size to expand in Australasia its food contact ranges and its ranges of lining plastics for bulk materials handling applications such as food and beverage, truck liners, agricultural technology, bucket wheel excavators, rail cars, wheel loaders, belt scrapers, silos, trough chain conveyors and an extensive range of mining and dry goods processing applications.

Wefapress Managing Director Gerrit Beck and Senior Sales Manager Klaus Massfeller visited Cut To Size’s Yennora facility recently to provide expert product training on the latest evolution of the globally proven Flex Cover range, an Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) engineered plastics which embodies a number of advantages in order to prevent friction, wear and material flow problems common to bulk handling industries.

The Australasian and German companies also focused on food contact products relevant to Australia and New Zealand producers and exporters because they comply with the highest global standards affecting this area, including major EU regulations on plastic production and processing in effect from 2011 that aim to eliminate the risk of the harmful effects caused by the migration of substances.

“As in Australasia, such substances can include colour pigments, separating agents and additives,” says Mr Green. “The interaction between foodstuffs and foreign substances can carry certain risks. In order to minimise these risks and prevent any possible contamination, the European Commission introduced a regulation in January 2011 on materials and objects made from plastic. Wefapress already considered these requirements essential. A large proportion of the materials we offer for the food industry meet the guidelines of the EU regulation and are therefore classed as ‘food secure’.”

“The food and beverage and processing industries work in accordance with strict hygiene standards, which also apply to interactions with plastics. Plastics must be deemed physiologically harmless before they can come into contact with food.”

“This not only protects the health of the consumer, but also the composition of the food and its organoleptic properties,” says Mr Green.

The following individual provisions of framework regulation (EC) no. 1935/2004 are particularly relevant: EU regulation no. 10/2011 (PIM), which defines contact between plastic and foodstuffs. Such provisions are particularly relevant to Australian and New Zealand food and beverage companies seeking to select materials that conform with such standards.

Key points

Migration test

Required for standard tests with food simulants, times and temperatures, which reflect real situations. The following elements are tested: OML (overall migration limit), maximum quantities a material is allowed to emit, as well as SML (specific migration limit), the maximum quantity of a substances that can enter into food.

Declaration of conformity

Contains information regarding food regulations and suitability guidelines on possible uses. The declaration is valid until a change is made to the material, consequently altering migration rates, or until new scientific knowledge is developed.

Traceability and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice)

The material must be traceable throughout every stage of the value chain. Manufacture must be in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006, also known as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice), which regulates quality system, quality system, quality control system and documentation.

Shared responsibility of all parties concerned with the manufacturing process

EU regulation no. 10/2011 relates to the manufacturing of all food contact materials and applies to the entire supply chain including manufacturing, processing and distribution. The conformity of products and processes must be ensured and confirmed across all stages of production. The final distribution company is then able to issue the final declaration of conformity.

List of raw and auxiliary materials

Defines the materials to use for production: Only monomers, additives auxiliary materials (e.g. drilling emulsion, cleaning agents) from the Union list (appendix one of EU regulation no. 10/2011 may be used in the manufacturing of food secure products.

Wefapress Food Secure Products from Cut To Size

Wefapress uses only suitable raw materials when manufacturing semi-finished parts, components and other products intended for direct contact with food. Products labelled “Food Secure Product” conform to EU regulation no. 10/2011,” and are highly relevant to Australian and New Zealand producers and exporters.

Wefapress offers the following range of food safe products relevant to such applications as mechanical and plant engineering; drinks and bottling industries; agriculture industry; Food industry; Paper industry; Chemical industry; Conveyor systems and automation:

  • St 1000 FSP natural | green | signal blue
  • St 500 FSP natural | green | signal blue | oxide red / red brown | pastel yellow / wood-coloured
  • St 6000 AST FDA FSP black
  • St 6000 ELS FDA FSP black
  • POM FSP natural | ultramarine blue
  • PETP FSP natural
  • PETP-SP FSP light grey
  • PA 6 G FSP natural | blue
  • PA 6 G + Öl FSP blue
  • PA 12 G FSP natural
  • PEEK FSP natural
  • PVDF FSP natural

All of these materials are accessible from Cut To Size by Australian and New Zealand companies, says Mr Green.

 “We also check other material types in consultation with our customers, even for small orders. In this way, customers can benefit from our local knowledge and Wefapress’ global experience in working with companies in the food industry for many years.”

Wefapress has been dealing with EU regulation no. 10/2011 on a regular basis since 2012. A large proportion of the company’s material types made from polythene (PE-UHMW and PE-HMW) and other thermoplastics conform to the regulation. These products all carry the Wefapress FSP (Food Safe Product) label.

“Wefapress and Cut To Size can also provide Individual calculation of migration: “We are happy to provide advice on how to calculate migration. We can provide you with access to empirical data in the form of available test results to save you time and money,” says Mr Green.