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andros

European "Food safe" regulation

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I never made objects that are intended to contact with food, like tableware. But since I'm planning both to expand  my production range than upscaling a little bit my tiny buisiness, I've been hitted by some posts that rightly mention "food safe regulation"... 


Since I live in Europe and regulations could differ a lot from US and EU I only hope that some Europeans that read could help me, because I don't know who knows anything about this matter and, being a non-professional, I can't ask for informations to craftsmen associations... On-line material is unuseful.


 My understanding is that is not not enough to use materials (clays, glazes) that are stated to be "food safe" or lead free glazes and so on... In addition my understanding is that the (tableware) producer must draw up and keep some documentation that demonstrates how he has made sure that his products are food safe. Also some "releasing tests" appears to be involved...


Really to make and sell a couple mugs (maybe an hoobyist like me that sells sometime is some small country fair) does is needed all this procedure?

 

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A good question, Andros!

I must emphasise that I am not qualified to give legal advice, so please do more research of your own...

Individual member states of the EU have been expected to assimilate a 2005 Directive from the European Council into their own legislative frameworks - a directive which non-controversially deals with the food-safety of ceramics. Different states will have adopted the Directive in different ways. I don't know if your English is up to it, but you might like to look at this - Explanatory Memorandum to the Ceramic Article in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2006 (PDF) - to see what was proposed for England, and what they eventually did. The key part of this text was (I think) the following:

Quote

Some small producers (including craft potters and one-man operations) did express concern that the new requirement might call for a greater incidence of testing than was currently the case, and some who worked exclusively with lead/cadmium-free glazes and colours feared that testing would become a mandatory requirement for them for the first time. The guidance to the Regulations will make clear that where there is convincing documentary evidence (including analytical evidence) that only lead/cadmium free materials are used this would be sufficient to satisfy the enforcement authorities. The European Commission has approved this interpretation of the Directive’s requirements. Where use of such materials cannot be demonstrated we would consider it reasonable and proportionate to expect a smaller potter to select one or two representative samples from his production for testing.

Now, this does seem to suggest that in England, even the small craft potter is expected to have proper analytical evidence that his products do not leach lead or cadmium above a certain level. That seem to be the way English Law specifically suggested dealing with the EC Directive.

(For the legally picky, the Ceramic Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2006 were revoked and replaced by the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012. For our purposes, there is no material difference in this change.)

So, what you need to do is to discover how the original EC Directive was assimilated into Italian law, to see if it impacts on you in a similar way. If you go here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/NIM/?uri=CELEX:32005L0031 then scroll down to 'Italy', and click on it - this will tell you where to look! (Namely, Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana; Number: 66; Publication date: 2007-03-20.) This is fun, isn't it?

I'm in France, and I'm aware that - technically - I'm supposed to have my pots tested. There have been rumours of people being approached at pottery fairs, and being asked for proof of the food-safety of what they are selling. And people being fined if they can't...

 

 

 

Edited by Sputty
Extra excitement.
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As an addendum to the above, and specifically of interest for UK readers, the Department of Trade and Industry (as was),  produced the following guidance:

THE CERAMIC ARTICLES IN CONTACT WITH FOOD (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2006 - Guidance for businesses and food authorities (PDF)

...which states:

Quote

The expectation for the very small producers (e.g. the craft potter, one-man operations etc) is more flexible and proportionate. These businesses, whose production processes, product ranges and use of materials is typically more varied than that of the larger producer, would find testing to the frequency indicated above disproportionately burdensome. For this reason the Department has agreed with the enforcement authorities that the very small producers, particularly those producing experimental designs and those who mix their own glazes and colours, should be expected to test a small representative sample of their work each year. In some cases (best discussed with the local food authority) one sample might be deemed to be sufficient.

I would be very interested indeed to hear comments from UK potters as to their practice in this respect.

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I'm convinced of the fact that all Americans who read these things will find all very odd... Because all this stuff is very very European!! So bizarre, convoluted and complicated ...

I've just taken a look at the huge maount of directives and decrees (3 EU regulations, 2 EU directives and 2 Italian Ministerial Decrees!!)...

In Italy the situation seems to be the same as France. Unlike UK I have found no trace of any guidance, memorandum, and something else that mentions "craft potters and one-man operations"... Incredibly I can't found any comment or post in any forum or other... this is very strange because in Italy is full of craft potters (not in my city!) and I can't believe that nobody is concerned about all this mess...


The absurd thing is that everything appear to have been thought only for industries, because it's true that is told that everything must be scaled in order to avoid  excessive burden for small companies, but at the same time the directives appears to require some "management system" in order to ensure traceability of materials... So, should craft potters be certified ISO 9001?!?!?? Probably not, but...


The most absurd thing anyway for me is the fact that everywhere is mentioned the "company". It is given for granted that the pottery "producer" is a "company". Also a one-man operation is a company and this is ok... but what about people like me that are allowed to partecipate to some country fair and sell something on occasional basis without having a VAT number? For my little and negligible business I don't need to be enrolled in the "chamber of commerce" and  I don't need to have a "company"... Does all this regulations and decrees apply also to me ot not? If yes (and I think it is) how it applies to me?(I don't expect that somebody answers to those questions...)  As always, when it comes to dealing with the EU\Italian law, the mystery deepens ...!!!

Two things for @Sputty... First: I find that clarification in English by far more understandable  that italian political jargon!! :lol: Second: I think that UK potters will comment "let's go with Brexit!!"

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I think Americans probably have their own legislation to deal with!

In general, the regulations we're looking at here are considered to be non-controversial - they are there to protect the consumer from lead and cadmium poisoning, amongst other things. 'Safe' levels, have been set using evidenced science, and we are expected to abide with those rules. I'm not sure I have a problem with this - in fact, in some ways I see it as a freeing move. Should I wish, I could make lead-glazed slipware, get it tested regularly, and have the freedom of knowing that I'm operating within a well-defined law. I prefer that to either of the alternatives, which are 1) a free for all, where non-one is constrained by any health and safety considerations whatsoever, and does what they think they can get away with; or 2) hysterical over-reaction, where people faint at the mention of anything with a risk factor of greater than 0.01.

You are right when you say that the focus is always on industry or large commerce, and rarely on the small craft producer. Nonetheless, it can't be the case that a one-person operation is allowed to poison his/her customers, simply because (s)he is a crafts-person rather than an industrial behemoth. So those regulations have to apply to all. Where systems generally fall down is in the provision of easy access to conforming with those regulations. As it happens, it's not too difficult or expensive to get a pot tested for leaching of nasty things, and that slip of paper could be seen as an open door, rather than as a barrier (see my earlier point).

I also happen to think that most (not all) EU law is well-framed and clearly defined. The EU law-makers are technically extremely competent - the problems arise when member states assimilate EU Directives into their individual legislative structures. That's not an EU problem, it's an individual member state problem! That is painfully clear when trying to unravel the mess that member states have made of implementing what should be a straight-forward Directive such as the one we're discussing here.

There's a moratorium on political conversation on this forum - and rightly so - so I'll keep my feeling about Berxit to myself, other than to suggest that co-operation is always better than confrontation, IMHO. Most potters are internationalists, in my experience.

Anyway, there's yet to be any comment from other European potters about this, and I know you're out there! I know no-one wants to incriminate themselves, but @andros has raised an important issue. Any thoughts? (About poisoning your customers, that is, not Berxit).

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11 minutes ago, Sputty said:

There's a moratorium on political conversation on this forum

I'm sorry, my comment were intended only as a joke. I would never want to go into this speech first. This in general, much less here...

Anyway I  admit that my post was very (maybe to much) controversial with the law, but only with the fact that it looks to be very disheartening for small craft potters. Nothing to complain with the right necessity to protect people from poisoning (and in this way I also appreciate the intent of the law) but personally I'm only discouraged of  not being able to understand how I could be compliant with the law in my case (and I think in the case of many craft potters) or at least by the fact that it appears so complicated,  and I'm afraid I cannot have the resources to be compliant. This not exactly because of the law itself, but (mostly) because are missing easily available clarifications and clear explanations about the real practical impact.

Anyway once uderstood what I have to do, and how, and once understood that it's not so complicated as it appears at first glance, I wuold very happy to be compliant... and yes, I would feel even better too, because I would be 100% sure to offer a safe product, given that I give it especially to my friends...

37 minutes ago, Sputty said:

That is painfully clear when trying to unravel the mess that member states have made of implementing what should be a straight-forward Directive such as the one we're discussing here.

For once, Italy has adopted the directive without distorting it!  :PThe Italian decrees are a copy and paste of the directives ...

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12 minutes ago, andros said:

For once, Italy has adopted the directive without distorting it!  :PThe Italian decrees are a copy and paste of the directives ...

Heh! Presumably they didn't have the first clue what to do with it, so just shrugged, and adopted it as it stands!

I'm surprised (at least, I think I'm surprised) that the various bodies which represent crafts potters, such as the Craft Potters Association in the UK, haven't produced their own guidelines for their members, based on the relevant legislation (maybe they have, and I just don't know about it??). Potters are potters, after all, not legal experts, even those of us who happen to take an interest in these things. In that way, the 'disheartening' effect you mention could perhaps be avoided!

The situation in France, as far as I can judge without interrogating others too deeply, is that generally craftspeople have ignored the legislation. The one French language pottery forum I sometimes look at has the occasional post asking about the issue, where everyone piles in with different opinions, and then it all goes quiet as people drift away, none the wiser. Probably just like this thread, come to think of it!

Anyway, I'm going to get a pot tested in the New Year! We'll see how the process works...

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31 minutes ago, Sputty said:

The one French language pottery forum I sometimes look at has the occasional post asking about the issue, where everyone piles in with different opinions, and then it all goes quiet as people drift away, none the wiser. Probably just like this thread, come to think of it!

 

That's something! The only Italian Language pottery forum  I know is technically dead... it's not a case that I'm writing in a forum that is intended to be international but is basically US born...

 

31 minutes ago, Sputty said:

The situation in France, as far as I can judge without interrogating others too deeply, is that generally craftspeople have ignored the legislation

This is also my impression (only an impression, I admit) for Italy...

31 minutes ago, Sputty said:

Anyway, I'm going to get a pot tested in the New Year! We'll see how the process works...

This is very interesting! It would be a very precious thing to have a firsthand witness about how it does actually works! I don't think that in this case there will be deep differences between Italy and France ... Let me know, please!

 

Edited by andros

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3 hours ago, andros said:

This is very interesting! It would be a very precious thing to have a firsthand witness about how it does actually works! I don't think that in this case there will be deep differences between Italy and France ... Let me know, please!

I will keep you informed! Probably towards the end of January, all being well.

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I think there is no legal term for food safe just lead and cadmium legislation possibly barium too. The rest is a very grey area and the metal oxides are probably much more dangerous to the potter than the end user. I can easier imagine a law suit over something breaking than leaching metals.

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1 hour ago, High Bridge Pottery said:

I think there is no legal term for food safe just lead and cadmium legislation possibly barium too. The rest is a very grey area and the metal oxides are probably much more dangerous to the potter than the end user. I can easier imagine a law suit over something breaking than leaching metals.

I think the key thing is the fact that there exists legislation which @andros referred to which theoretically has to be adhered to with respect to leaching of lead, cadmium, etc., and whether anyone actually does adhere to it from the craft community. Technically, it seems that UK potters (and those across the wider EU) should indeed have their wares laboratory analysed in the way described by the DTI (as was), to provide documented evidence that their product is safe. The thing is, does anyone do this? Does anyone even know about it? Has anyone ever had any communication from the appropriate authorities about this? I don't think the suggestion is that consumers will sue, as such; rather, that legislation exists which is supposed to be taken seriously.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm pretty sure that people here in France take next to no notice of this (* looks shiftily sideways *), although rumours circulate that people have been fined for not being compliant, i.e., for not having had the tests done.

Edited by Sputty

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6 hours ago, Sputty said:

I'm surprised (at least, I think I'm surprised) that the various bodies which represent crafts potters, such as the Craft Potters Association in the UK, haven't produced their own guidelines for their members, based on the relevant legislation (maybe they have, and I just don't know about it??).

So, at the risk of talking to myself, I'll add that I have indeed found exactly such advice from the 'Collectif National des Ceramistes', in the form of this PDF. Interesting for any Francophones out there. Anyone have access to (UK) CPA materials which might cover the same ground?

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16 minutes ago, High Bridge Pottery said:

If nobody is using lead or cadmium then I think we are all following legislation, I mean we know that they are not the only issues but in the eyes of the law they seem to be the only problem additions. I could be totally wrong and be missing something.

I think the point is that the legislation asks that we prove that we're not using those elements, or if we are, then they don't release beyond the specified limits. It would appear that in theory at least, that proof has to be documented and analytic. Whether anyone actually does this in the craft pottery world (and I think we all know the answer to that) is a moot point. It would be good to hear an up-to-date position from authority. The only stuff I can find is a few years old (see above for links, etc.).

In France, the list of suspects was lengthened to include Cobalt, Barium, Aluminium, Copper, and several others, in 2013. And we pretty much all use one or more of those.

Edited by Sputty
Day excursion into the Periodic Table.

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Doing a bit of searching I came across this from 2016 http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC102075/report ceramic_rev04_2016_12_22-cs_ reg.pdf

Not made it all the way through but seems useful, they still mention there is yet to be any limits put on anything other than lead and cadmium but there could be at some point.

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10 hours ago, High Bridge Pottery said:

Doing a bit of searching I came across this from 2016 http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC102075/report ceramic_rev04_2016_12_22-cs_ reg.pdf

Not made it all the way through but seems useful, they still mention there is yet to be any limits put on anything other than lead and cadmium but there could be at some point.

Good find! Some of the pottery they tested is horrible... but some of the kit they used to test it looks very cool.

The effects of acetic acid on some of the earthenware are quite astonishing (p19)!

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One thing is not so crear to me... maybe because I'm little dummy or I paid insufficient attention, but...(I'm referring to the test report found by @High Bridge Pottery Pottery) Hollow articles appeared to be tested in the interior, i.e. they are filled with acetic acid or another test liquid ("The articles were filled with the test liquid to a level no more than 1 mm from the overflow point").  But at p19 also the external surface appears bitten... This is something that is not so clear (to me) also in the EU directives. Do only the internal parts that are destined to contact food need to be tested? Could I (for example) make a mug externaly lead plated but with a safe glaze inside?

Another thing... should I test every single shape I'm going to make? Does is not sufficient to test the couple clay-glaze fired at a given temperature? I don't think that there is significant difference between a mug or a bowl if produced with the same clay and same glaze...

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Just above the picture they say it is calcium carbonate, not sure why it looks like that but they are only filling the inside. 

Quote

several samples showed cracks on the surface and presence of calcium carbonate, as is shown in figure 3

I think you are right that you only need to test the glaze and not every shape of pot. Can't hurt to test a few different shapes. You only have to test if you use lead or cadmium. Looking at the results the only other thing to worry about is cobalt. Need to find some time sit and read it all.

It is interesting to note how much the values drop by the 3x running the test.

Edited by High Bridge Pottery

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@High Bridge Pottery, I skimmed through the link you posted and couldn't see any information on the firing variables of the ceramics that were tested. There is nothing other than colour, overglaze, and size information given.  No info on whether the ware is low fire earthenware or mid or high fire and if all glazes are gloss, they appear to be but could be camera flash on some. Dr Carty states firing temperature plays a role in how much a glaze leaches as does matte versus gloss. The decrease in leachable materials with subsequent tests also corroborates what Dr Carty found with copper glazes. Vapour condensing from the glaze depositing on the ware that can be washed off with hot soapy water, if this is done prior to testing the leaching figures he published are significantly lower. pages 35-36 of this. Perhaps that is happening with the other metals.

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4 hours ago, Min said:

couldn't see any information on the firing variables of the ceramics that were tested.

I think  that this due to the fact that the aim of the EU document was primarily to "develop adequate methodologies for testing these articles"  insted of make a methodic study about how metal leach s changes as the boundary conditions change... this is something that can be interesting for us (and in this way I will find much more time to study the interesting material posted by @Min. It's the potter that should be interested on how to avoid excessive metals leach. It is sufficient for the legislator to set thresholds that make sense ... isn't it?

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Is anyone here aware of the recent EU consultation on whether or not to require the use of an indelible mark (e.g. stamped symbol) on ALL ceramics that might be used for food to permanently identify whether it complies with the safety standards?

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7 hours ago, Joe_L said:

Is anyone here aware of the recent EU consultation on whether or not to require the use of an indelible mark (e.g. stamped symbol) on ALL ceramics that might be used for food to permanently identify whether it complies with the safety standards?

The consultation is just that at the moment, a consultation. In November 2017, this presentation (PDF) was given with respect to 'Ceramic Materials, Revision of Directive 84/500/EC.' You'll see on pp. 49-50 the ideas around labelling - but the whole presentation is worth reading, of course, as a background to the state of play. There is actually considerable mention given to artisanal/traditional pottery, and the problems that legislation brings for this group (us!), which I can only interpret as a good sign. The intention is that a detailed technical consultation will happen in 2018, followed by a regulatory package.

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1 hour ago, Sputty said:

The intention is that a detailed technical consultation will happen in 2018, followed by a regulatory package.

I read online also some rumors (also from Higher Institute of Health  members! This in some presentation made for ceramic industry) obut a revision of the directive itself... At least here the result of such a things is that nobody does nothing waiting futher developments... Anyway if something of more detailed for artisanal pottery will follow, for me is well accepted!

Anyway a lot of very interesting and useful stuff from all of you! ;)

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