New Delhi: Around 3,240 potentially dangerous compounds have been measured in food contact material (FCM), which is being absorbed into food products, according to a group of worldwide scientists who have expressed worries about the material. FCM is used for food processing and packaging.
“Sixty-five percent of these chemicals had not previously been known to be used in FCMs, according to a report released by the Switzerland-based nonprofit Food Packaging Forum.
The report, “Systematic evidence on migrating and extractable food contact chemicals: Most chemicals detected in food contact materials are not listed for use,” was published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
“Food packaging is important for today’s globalized food system, but food contact materials (FCMs) can also be a source of hazardous chemicals migrating into foodstuffs. Assessing the impacts of FCMs on human health requires a comprehensive identification of the chemicals they contain, the food contact chemicals (FCCs)” the report said.
In compiling the database, the scientists used information from 1,210 studies and found that 2,881 FCMs had been found previously, which they organized into six FCM groups, including plastics, metal, paper and board, glass and ceramic, “multi-materials” and what they categorized as “other FCMs.”
“Our findings expand the universe of known FCCs to 14,153 chemicals. This knowledge contributes to developing non-hazardous FCMs that lead to safer food and support a circular economy” the study claimed.
Co-author of the report Pete Myers, who is the founder of nonprofit advocacy group Environmental Health Sciences and chief scientist of the organization, said the chemicals are sometimes added to food intentionally by manufacturers, but other times their presence is unintended, reported The Guardian. The problem is, that the unknown chemicals are ending up in the bodies of consumers.
“If we don’t know what it is, we don’t know its toxicity,” said Myers, as The Guardian reported. “The mix of chemicals is just too complicated to allow us to regulate them safely.”
The use of food packaging is steadily rising because it enables the current globalized food system. However, single-use food packaging strongly contributes to household waste and plastic pollution, thus threatening the world’s ecosystems
The study said, moreover, food packaging and other food contact articles (FCAs), such as processing equipment, and kitchen utensils, can release chemicals into food and represent a considerable source of human exposure to chemicals .
As some of these chemicals are toxic, detrimental effects on health can arise and the impact of chronic chemical exposure on human health, even at very low levels, is serious and has been implicated in the rising prevalence of several chronic diseases.
“Therefore, reducing the exposure to hazardous chemicals is recommended for reversing the current trends of the increasing burden of chronic diseases,” it said.