Food contact materials (FCMs)
The journal of Epidemiology and Community Health warned the potential harmful effects of some of over 4000 synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage and processing of food. Food packaging plays an important role in protecting food and extending its self life. The containers used to hold the processed food we consume, from paper based materials (paper, paperboard, corrugated board) to plastic, metal and rubber are needed to protect the food inside from contamination. The paper based materials contain inks, solvents, glues, varnishes, additives and other process substances. Recycled papers often contain high amounts of contaminants such as phthalates, plasticizers and mineral oil hydrocarbons. Many of the chemicals found in the packaging materials are not inert but they slowly leach into the packaged food.Scientists noted with concern that FCMs are a significant source of food contamination and the consumers are chronically exposed to synthetic chemicals throughout their lives. The life –long exposures to food contact chemicals is a cause for concern for several reasons.
The migration of chemical substances from the packaging material to food depends on temperature and time, food acidity and fat content and the chemical and physical properties of the packaged material.
Metals, plastics, rubber, paper, glass and ceramics can all release minute amounts of their chemical constituents, when they touch the packaged food substances.Food contact materials can be a source of chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde, melamine, phthalates, and primary aromatic amines) with the potential to leach into food. This release of chemicals from the packaging material to the food is called migration. Any chemical migration into the food is important because it can have two impacts on the food.
Food safety – some chemicals could be harmful, if they were ingested in large quantities.
Food quality – some migrating substances may impart taint or odour to food.
Food contact chemicals
Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is widely present at low levels in plastic bottles used for carbonated drinks and melamine tableware.Formaldehyde is classified by World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC) as known human carcinogen which is linked to sinus cancer and leukaemia.
Other hormone disrupting chemicals (HDCs) of FCMs include bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan and phthalates. These chemicals slowly leach from the coating of the packaged containers in minute amounts and contaminate the food. The long-term exposure to food contact chemicals may cause cancers, obesity, and diabetes, neurological and inflammatory disorders. In developed countries, chronic diseases account for around two thirds of deaths, adding that about 16% of these deaths happen before the age of 60.
Food contact plastics include vinyl polymers such as polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethyleneterephthalate (PET) which are widely used for packaging foods and beverages. Food contact plastics contain bisphenol A, nonyl phenol, benzyl butyl phthalate, styrene oligomers and hydroxylated benzophenones. These food contact chemicals have been reported to possess estrogenic activities.