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Novel way of identifying chemicals in paper and board packaging

Thursday 14 Sep 17

Contact

Anne Marie Vinggaard
Professor
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 75 49

Contact

Kit Granby
Associate Professor
National Food Institute
+45 93 51 89 45

A novel approach to identify problematic chemicals in food contact materials made from paper and board has been developed at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. It uses a number of selected cell-based methods to identify harmful effects and to sort packaging types according to their toxicity profile. Sophisticated analytical chemistry methods are then used to identify the chemicals that cause the effect. In the long term, such strategies can help ensure that food packaging does not contaminate our food and ultimately us.

Paper and board is widely used as packaging material, and as such comes into direct contact with foods. The packaging often contains chemicals that have either been added by the manufacturer or are unintentionally present – for example if they are present in recycled paper. The chemicals can migrate to the food and contribute to a health hazard to consumers. 

While there is no specific EU regulation for the control of paper and board packaging, food manufacturers must ensure that the packaging is not harmful to the consumer. However, this can be challenging, not least since packaging producers are increasingly using recycled paper and board.

A novel approach
"By using this new approach, we look for chemicals that we weren’t necessary aware of were present in the packaging or whose harmful effects were unknown. "

A novel approach from the National Food Institute provides a streamlined strategy for identifying problematic chemicals. The approach is a welcome, if not necessary step towards understanding what types of chemicals that can be present in food packaging, as well as the effects that these chemicals may cause.

”We have turned the traditional methods of analysis upside down. Instead of using classical methods to detect chemicals which we suspect are present in the packaging material, we choose in the first instance to use a number of selected cell-based methods to identify harmful effects, such as carcinogenic effects and hormonal activity. Only then do we use sophisticated analytical methods to identify the specific chemicals that have caused the effect,” Professor Anne Marie Vinggard from the National Food Institute says.

Testing the method

Researchers from the institute have tested the method on 20 different types of packaging, including microwave popcorn bags, baking paper and pizza boxes. They have carried out an in-depth analysis of a pizza box made from recycled paper, in which a significant estrogenic activity was found. The chemical analysis showed that the pizza box contains two phthalates as well as bisphenol A, all of which are known endocrine disruptors.

Additionally, an antiandrogenic activity was found for a sandwich wrapper extract made from virgin paper. This is an important mechanism that can affect the normal development in male fetuses. The effect was shown to be caused by the presence of abietic and dehydroabietic acids, both naturally present in resin and paper, but also added during to the production of paper in order to make the packaging more waterproof.

Analyses have confirmed that all these chemicals are able to migrate into foods.

”By using this new approach, we look for chemicals that we weren’t necessary aware of were present in the packaging or whose harmful effects were unknown. As such, we believe we can help to ensure that food packaging does not unnecessarily contaminate our foods in the long run” Anne Marie Vinggaard explains.

Read more

The full approach is described in a scientific article in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology: An effect-directed strategy for characterizing emerging chemicals in food contact materials made from paper and board.

To read more about the National Food Institute’s research into chemicals’ harmful effects, chemicals’ combined cocktail effect and the development of computer models that can predict harmful effects, go to the institute special topic portal on chemical exposure.

http://www.food.dtu.dk/english/news/nyhed?id=F3F397C2-CAA6-465A-92D4-8FFAF033A26A&utm_device=web&utm_source=RelatedNews&utm_campaign=Great-interest-globally-in-online-course-on-antimicrobial-resistance
22 NOVEMBER 2017