European food and drink producers are working flat out with the packaging industry to eliminate any threat of cancer posed by chemical compounds placed in the lids of glass jars to provide a perfect seal.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set up a task force to solve the problem, linking the three sectors involved in the packaging chain in the suppliers of the chemicals involved (represented by CEMIC), the makers of the lids (represented by SEFEL) and the food industry (represented by CIAA).

The source of the scare arose from routine checks carried out for manufacturers by a private laboratory, which discovered that the chemical semicarbazide had leached in very small quantities in some jars of food.

But Dr Sue Barlow, who chairs an expert panel for the European Food Safety Authority, was quick to point out that the risk to consumers resulting from the possible presence of semicarbazide in foods is, if any, judged to be very small.

In the UK, the Food and Drinks Federation is working with Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association technical manager David Smith. A spokesman for the FDF told Packaging Today International that the problem should be resolved within the next six months.

Meanwhile, EFSA has recommended that the EC start monitoring the food industry to ensure companies replace the current type of seals swiftly, focusing on baby foods as an immediate priority.