FSANZ calls for submissions on chemical migration from food packaging

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th June 2016

Australian government agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for submissions on a proposal to consider changing the standards that regulate the issue of chemical migration from packaging into food.

Assessing change since 2011 survey report

In 2011, FSANZ published a survey of 65 foods and beverages packaged in glass, paper, plastic or cans. These samples were analysed for phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO), semicarbazide, acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride.

At the time, FSANZ described the results as “reassuring” and said there were no phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, semicarbazide, acrylonitrile or vinyl chloride found in the food samples.

FSANZ did however find ESBO in very low levels in some samples. ESBO comes from soy bean oil and is used in a variety of plastics. The levels of ESBO found were described by FSANZ as being below international migration limits set by the European Union. It said that it did not pose any risk to human health or safety.

Potential new issues identified

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer, Steve McCutcheon, said about the new call for submissions that although the previous study provided overall reassuring results, FSANZ had now identified some potential issues and was now seeking comments on possible options to manage them.

“FSANZ is also undertaking further surveillance work to inform this proposal,” he said.

FSANZ welcomes comments from all sectors of the community on the proposal. The closing date for submissions is 5 August 2016.

Chemicals tested in 2011 survey

When the results of FSANZ’s 2011 survey were originally released, FoodLegal’s food chemist, Tony Zipper, explained the chemicals tested as follows:

Phthalates: 6 different phthalate compounds, tested in the survey were mainly used in food packaging as plasticisers in cap-sealing resins and sealing gaskets.

Phthalates have been reported as being involved in Endocrine Disruption (change in hormone levels and birth defects), Obesity, ADHD, and Susceptibility to Allergens, etc.

In January 2010, Australia’s then Consumer Affairs Minister Craig Emerson MHR had announced a ban on items containing more than one per cent Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) because of international research linking it to reproduction difficulties. It is one of the two chemicals that were the basis of aTaiwan fraud at the time.

Perfluorinated Compounds: 23 organofluorine compounds were tested in the 2011 survey, and were mainly used in food packaging as additives to paper coatings which provide resistance to moisture, oil and staining.

PFCs have been reported to be involved in health issues such as being a Teratogen or a Carcinogen,  an Endocrine disruptor and also contributing towards  Diabetes and Obesity.

Epoxidised Soybean Oil: (EPSO) – this single complex polymer-type compound is used as a plasticiser in food packaging often as a stabiliser for PVC, PVDC and Polystyrene. EPSO is reported to affect the liver, uterus, testes and kidneys after repeated ingestion.

Semicarbazide: Is formed in situ as a breakdown derivative of the chemical Azodicarbonamide which is used as an additive/plasticiser in sealing gaskets for use in food packaging.The formation of Semicarbazide in foods has been linked to cancers, liver damage, miscarriages and birth deformities in animals.

Acrylonitrile: Is used as a starting material in plastics manufacture. This compound has been linked inconclusively with cancer.

Vinyl Chloride: Used to make PVC. Vinyl Chloride monomer has been linked to cancer and liver damage formation in humans.