New research published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition has found that glass and ceramic are the safest food contact materials to be used in packaging.
The study found that across different packaging formats, close to 3,000 different chemicals can potentially leak from packaging into food, potentially resulting in human exposure to said chemicals.
Most of these chemicals (65%) were 'unknown', in that they have not been recorded in any regulatory or industry list to date. Of the 2,881 Food Contact Chemicals (FCCs) detected that can potentially leak into food, more than two thirds were identified in plastics.
Low Chemical Complexity
At the same time, glass and ceramic are by far the safest food contact materials, the study found, in line with the low chemical complexity of these materials.
“The study shows that glass is safest among the packaging materials as it has virtually no detected chemicals and therefore is the safest for human health,” said Adeline Farrelly, Secretary General of FEVE, the EU federation of container glass producers.
Of the total number of FCCs detected across six Food Contact Material (FCMs) groups, 1,975 were identified in plastic FCMs, followed by paper and board FCMs (887), 'other' FCMs (760) and multi-materials (614).
The fewest FCCs were detected in metal (251) and glass and ceramic.
“This research shows the potential risks linked to migration of chemical substances into the food chain and by consequence into the environment”, Farrelly added. “There is a considerable knowledge gap to fill on food contact legislation.
"But also, Life Cycle Assessment methodologies on packaging must and should take into account chemicals including hazardous chemicals used in food contact packaging materials that can potentially also leak into the environment."