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Food Packaging Presents Negligible to Low Public Health Risk, According to FSANZ Study

February 9, 2016

Australian consumers’ exposure to food packaging chemicals is low and, therefore, concentration of these chemicals in food represent a negligible to low risk to public health. This was the conclusion drawn by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) based on the 24th Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), Phase 2.

ATDS, Phase 2, investigated the levels of 30 food packaging chemicals in 81 foods and beverages typically consumed in Australia. The chemicals included bisphenol-A (BPA), epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO), di-2-ethylhexyl adipate (DEHA), two perfluorinated compounds, 14 phthalates, and 11 chemicals used in printing inks. Their uses in food packaging include plasticizers (plastic softeners), lid-sealing agents, and moisture/oil-resistant coatings.

Most of the foods and beverages did not contain detectable levels of the packaging chemicals analyzed, while low levels of BPA, ESBO, DEHA, perfluorooctane sulphonic acid, seven phthalates and four printing ink chemicals were detected in some of the foods. Generally, the estimated exposures to the detected packaging chemicals were below internationally recognized safe levels and presented a negligible to low risk to the Australian population. However, for two phthalates—di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP)—FSANZ determined that more comprehensive analytical data is needed to conduct a more robust assessment of any potential health and safety risks. Therefore, they agency is planning a follow–up survey to allow a better estimate of dietary exposure to these two chemicals. For the remaining 28 chemicals, FSANZ has determined that no further risk assessment or risk management is required at this time.  

The information gathered in this study will be used in the current review of food-contact packaging materials regulations in Australia and New Zealand through Proposal P10341, “Chemical Migration from Packaging into Food.” The purpose of Proposal P1034 is to determine whether there is a need to make changes to the way in which food-contact materials are managed in Australia and New Zealand.

A copy of 24th ATDS, Phase 2, can be accessed from FSANZ’ website.