175 chemicals with known hazardous properties legally used in food packaging

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food contact materials Endocrine disruptor

175 hazardous chemicals food packaging
175 chemicals with known hazardous properties are legally used in the production of food packaging, according to a study by the Food Packaging Forum (FPF).

Amongst the 175 chemicals of concern are substances causing cancer or inflicting changes on the genes, Birgit Geueke, scientific officer, FPF, told FoodProductionDaily.com

Endocrine disrupting chemicals

Birgit Geueke

Others affect an organism’s ability to reproduce, or they act as endocrine disruptors interfering with hormone signaling.

In addition, the list contains toxic chemicals that accumulate in the environment or the human body.

Geueke said phthalates, which are widely used as plasticizers, are one prominent example for endocrine disrupting chemicals that may lead to male infertility, genital malformations and cancer.

Benzophenones and organotin compounds add to the list of endocrine disrupting chemicals used in e.g. printing inks and coatings of food contact materials.

From a consumer perspective, it is undesirable and unexpected to find chemicals of concern being intentionally used in food contact materials​,” said Geueke at the Food Packaging Forum in Zurich last week.

The majority of the 175 chemicals of concern identified in the study fulfill the criteria of “Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)” based on the EU chemical regulation REACH.

Although only 21 of the 175 chemicals have been officially recognized as SVHC by the European Chemicals Agency, a total of 96 chemicals were identified as fulfilling the official REACH criteria for SVHC by the non-governmental organization ChemSec; they are listed on the Substitute It Now! (SIN) list.

Alternatives under REACH

SVHCs should be properly controlled and progressively replaced by less hazardous alternatives under REACH,​” added Geueke.

This includes a two-step regulatory process aiming at the phase-out of SVHCs. Nevertheless, chemicals used in the manufacture of food contact materials are not directly affected by this phase-out, because they are regulated separately.

As a consequence, chemicals with highly toxic properties may legally be used in the production of food contact materials, but not in other consumer products such as computers, textiles and paints even though exposure through food contact materials may be far more relevant​.

Food packaging and other materials coming in contact with food (e.g. foils, cans, pans, storage containers) continuously release mixtures of synthetic substances into food at low levels, which are then ingested by the consumer on a daily basis​.”

Source:Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A

Published:​ July 7, 2014

Title:​ Food contact substances and chemicals of concern: a comparison of inventories, Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, 31:8, 1438-1450, DOI:​ 10.1080/19440049.2014.931600

Author(s):​ Birgit Geueke, Charlotte C. Wagner & Jane Muncke (2014).

Related topics Food safety & quality

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