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FSANZ Determines Risk from Chemicals in Food Packaging is Low; No Additional Regulatory Measures Needed

A three-year study recently completed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) concluded that the risk of chemicals migrating from packaging into food is low and not of concern for human health. FSANZ initiated the study (Proposal P1034) to assess the need for changes in the regulatory scheme for food-contact materials in Australia and New Zealand. 

The comprehensive risk assessment included two public consultations, several surveys investigating the presence of packaging chemicals in Australian and New Zealand foods, and analysis of a database of over 1,300 food-contact materials.  The analytical surveys assessed a variety of chemicals used in food packaging, as well as honed in on several classes of materials—mineral oil hydrocarbons, printing inks, and photoinitiators.  Ultimately, FSANZ concluded that the estimated dietary exposures to these chemicals are low and not a human health concern.  (For more information on Phase 2 of the 24th Australian Total Diet Study, see the article, Food Packaging Presents Negligible to Low Public Health Risk, According to FSANZ Study.)

For two phthalates —di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP), FSANZ determined that more comprehensive data was needed and conducted a follow up survey to determine the potential risk from the two phthalates and five other plasticizers. The survey involved sampling 65 foods from across five jurisdictions. That survey found that the estimated dietary exposure for the chemicals was below their respective tolerable daily intakes (TDIs) and, therefore, did not pose a public health concern.

Announcing the conclusion of P1034 in a press release, FSANZ Chief Executive Officer, Mark Booth, stated that “based on its assessment, FSANZ has not recommended any further regulatory measures be introduced to the Food Standards Code.”  Supporting this determination, Mr. Booth noted that “this assessment process has involved considerable work and two rounds of public consultation,” as well as “establishing an advisory group with industry and consumer representatives, testing of foods for the presence of packaging chemicals, and dietary exposure assessments.”

Although FSANZ found that sufficient control measures are in place to control chemical migration from packaging into food, some businesses could benefit from enhanced awareness of the potential for chemicals in packaging to migrate to contacted food and suitable control measures.  Towards this end, Mr. Booth added that FSANZ will continue to monitor the science in this area and develop guidance, particularly geared toward small and medium size businesses, to help them ensure packaging is safe.

A copy of FSANZ’s abandonment report for Proposal P1034 can be found on FSANZ’s website.