Many food packaging materials lack safety data

An article in Ensia, the magazine of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, reports that more than 50% of food contact materials in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration database of such substances lack accompanying toxicology information about the amount people can safely eat. The review article makes many interesting points about food packaging safety:

  • Upwards of 6,000 different manufactured substances are now listed by various government agencies as approved for use in food contact materials in the U.S. and Europe.
  • Recent analyses have revealed substantial gaps in what is known about the health and environmental effects of many of these materials and raised questions about the safety of others.
  • 175 chemicals used in food contact materials are also recognized by scientists and government agencies as chemicals of concern.
  • Some chemicals used in food packaging have been found to be biologically active.
  • Individual chemical assessments that determine food contact material approvals may not capture all the ways in which a single substance may interact with food, human bodies or the environment.
  • The Food Packaging Forum, a Zurich-based charitable foundation, is studying the problem of printing inks that can become mixed into recycled papers used in food packaging.
  • In its 2013 assessment of food additive chemicals — including those used in food packaging — the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the FDA’s method of assessing the safety of these materials is “fraught with systemic problems,” largely because it lacks adequate information.

The complete article, containing much more information about packaging materials in contact with food, can be found at

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