Food contaminants from packaging material

Contact of packaging material with food may result in the transfer of trace quantities of particular chemicals, such as monomers and plasticizers. Well-known chemicals used in the production of polymers are vinyl chloride and styrene. Vinyl chloride is the monomer of polyvinyl chloride, and styrene is used in the manufacturing of a number of plastics. Important plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride plastics are the phthalic acid esters di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP).

CH2 = CHCl Vinyl chloride

Styrene

Styrene

Table 4.6 Occurrence of pesticides in total diet study in 1991

Pesticide3

Number of food items contaminated with

Occurrence %b

Pesticide3

Number of food items contaminated with

Occurrence %b

Malathion

167

18

Chlorpyrifos-methyl

97

10

DDT

93

10

Dieldrin

73

8

Endosulfan

67

7

Methamidophos

58

6

Chlorpyrifos

51

5

Dicloran

44

5

Acephate

42

4

Diazinon

42

4

Dimethoate

34

4

Chlorpropham

28

3

Heptachlor

24

3

Lindane

22

2

Omethoate

22

2

Ethion

21

2

Hexachlorobenzene

20

2

Permethrin

16

2

BHC, alpha

13

1

Chlordane

12

1

Parathion

12

1

Quintozene

12

1

Dicofol

10

1

a Including parent compounds, isomers, metabolites and related compounds. b On the basis of 936 items. NB: a food item can contain several pesticides.

a Including parent compounds, isomers, metabolites and related compounds. b On the basis of 936 items. NB: a food item can contain several pesticides.

C O CH2CH2CH2CH3

Dibutyl phthalate

COOCH2CH(CH2)3CH3 COOCH2CH(CH2)3CH3

CH2CH3

Di(2 - ethylhexyl) phthalate

CH2CH3

C O CH2CH2CH2CH3

Vinyl chloride has been identified as a liver carcinogen in animal models as well as in humans. Acute intoxication causes depression of the central nervous system and hepatic damage. Vinyl chloride leaches out of packaging materials into water as well as into fatty material. Mineral water (stored in polyvinyl chloride bottles) has been shown to take up vinyl chloride. After 6 months, a concentration of 170 mg per l was measured. This may lead to a daily intake of 120 ng per person in countries where polyvinyl chloride bottled drinking water is used. In cooking oils, higher concentrations have been found, viz. 14.8 mg/kg.

Styrene-induced toxic effects include renal and hepatic damage, pulmonary edema, and cardiac arrhythmia. The oral LD50 in rats is relatively low: 5 g/kg. Styrene appears to leach out of polystyrene packaging material, preferably into the fatty components of food.

Average concentrations of 27 ppb have been measured in high-fat yogurt, 71 ppb in fruit yogurt, 20 to 70 ppb in other desserts, 18 to 180 ppb in meat products and 5 ppb in packed fruit and vegetable salads. For styrene, a provisional ADI of 40 ng per kg has been calculated.

The phthalic acid esters DEHP and DBP have low acute toxicities. The intraperitoneal LD50 in mice are 14.2 and 4.0 g/kg, respectively. However, liver or lung damage by the leached plasticizers has been suggested. DEHP and BBP appear to be non-genotoxic carcinogens.

Since they are widely distributed in materials involved in transportation, construction, clothing, medicine, and packaging, the concern about their health effects has increased.

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