Food contact materials made from animal or plant biomass can perform as well as plastic FCMs, but there may be additional risks to consumers from chemicals and allergens migrating into food, according to a UK study.
These include heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), natural toxins and allergens, concluded the study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency.
‘Bio-based’ packaging materials are derived from biological and renewable resources, which consist of polymers directly extracted or removed from biomass, produced by chemical synthesis using renewable bio-based monomers or produced by microorganisms or genetically modified bacteria.
These innovative and environment-friendly materials include bio-based plastics for food containers, films and composite materials for drink cartons.
But their biodegradability, combined with their manufacture from diverse biomass resources including agri-food by-products, may lead to additional sources of risk that are not observed with plastic FCMs, said a report released last month but finalised in June.
Their processing may also be a source of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), with potential to migrate upon food contact.
Thermal processing to convert materials into packaging may generate contaminants more frequently associated with food, such as acrylamide, “although this has not been established”, it said.
An increasing number of biodegradable and compostable FCMs are coming onto the market and the report said these provide similar “barrier properties” to plastic FCMs, enabling comparable shelf life performance and consumer protection.
However, very limited information is available on many of these materials, it said.
But current risk assessment processes for establishing contaminant chemical transfer from packaging to food would be appropriate for bio-based FCMs.
An evaluation of the EU’s decades-old FCM framework Regulation is currently underway.
At a stakeholder workshop last month, member states, industry and NGOs made a final plea for full harmonisation of EU-wide controls on hazardous chemicals.
Source : Chemicalwatch.com news
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