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Do Food Containers Contain Toxic Chemicals?

03-20-20Hong Kong

To keep food clean and fresh, and reduce the use of plastic bags, more and more consumers are willing to bring food containers when they go to wet markets and restaurants. As useful as food-storage containers can be for meal preparation and transportation, and though they can store food well for an extended period of time, many of those seemingly safe containers may have hazardous chemicals lurking inside.

TÜV Rheinland, the world’s leading testing and certification service provider, has conducted testing on food containers for non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). Unfortunately, we have discovered that all tested polypropylene (PP) food containers purchased in various department stores have different degrees of health hazards for consumers. Substances were detected in the samples, but some of their structures remain unknown, and some identified chemicals were found to exceed the Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC). In brief, TTC is the commonly used preliminary risk assessment method for the toxicity of trace amounts of chemicals. The basic concept of TTC is to establish generic exposure level for most chemicals with known structures (i.e. Threshold values) below which there would be acceptable risk to human health. If the amount of the chemical substance is higher than the threshold value, performance of further risk assessment is recommended.

According to the tested results, PP food containers are releasing NIAS that may cause problems and should be further assessed accordingly. There is usually no full control over the presence of NIAS. It may be a certain chemical substance such as an impurity from substance that can be added from an approved list, or a by-product or pollutant generated during the production process. The presence of these unintentionally added substances should not be taken lightly, as the toxicity of these chemicals have not been assessed yet. They can range from being safe to very toxic in trace amounts.

Manufacturers of food containers are urged to increase their safety awareness in regard to NIAS in their products. The common testing approach in the past has been to check only for target substances according to the known plastic material types or the ingredient information manufacturers use in the production process. Article 19 of EU regulation no. 10/2011 states that NIAS should also be assessed to be sure that the plastic materials utilized are safe when in contact with food, under the principles of Article 3 of EC regulation 1935/2004. In addition, manufacturers should use high-quality raw materials and maintain traceability information regarding the ingredients of the raw materials. Of course, adopting Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and maintaining good communication between the different parties involved in the full manufacturing chain is critical to producing high-quality products.

There is currently no official standardized method for NIAS testing, and not all found substances can be identified by any existing single laboratory technique. In order to help related companies better understand NIAS, TÜV Rheinland will regularly share information on the latest progress in global food contact material regulations, application points, practical tools, and other relevant matters, and also provide food container-related testing and certification services, to ensure that the chemicals and additives commonly used in products comply with the legal requirements of relevant food contact materials — to protect consumer health, and to verify the quality and safety of your food contact products.

Simon Hung
+852 2192 1948
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