Chemicals in Food Packaging Harmful to Human Health

Aluminum CanSynthetic chemicals in food packaging and storage containers can potentially leak into food, potentially posing a long-term harm to human health, suggest environmental scientists in a paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Food contact materials (FCMs) typically consist of plastic and contain a synthetic material that comes in direct contact with food. However, little research exists on the long-term impact of chronic exposure to FCMs.

That being the case, food packaging manufactures may be becoming more cautious to the use of plastic in any food-grade packages, recognizing the harmful effects that they may cause. Instead, there seems to be a slow shift of manufacturing processes to more eco-friendly as well as human-friendly organic materials that are compostable and cause no harm. In spite of this, however, more research needs to be done on the effects of FCMs that could prove harmful.

State the authors of the present paper: “These facts may be of relevance to scientists interested in the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis (DOHaD), life-course effects of in utero and childhood environmental exposures, plasticity, epigenetics and related processes.”

The authors also cite three main reasons for the concern over long-term exposure chemicals in food packaging and storage containers: presence of known toxicants, presence of hormone production-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates; and the sheer number of known chemical substances intentionally used in FCMs, which is roughly 4,000 chemicals.

Argue the authors, “Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated and policy makers struggle to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly.”


The authors also lament that routine toxicology analysis of the synthetic chemicals in food packaging does not consider potential cellular changes caused by FCMs, which “casts serious doubts on the adequacy of chemical regulatory procedures.”

The biggest hurdle to studying the long-term effects of FCMs is that no unexposed populations exist with which to compare with exposed populations, making establishing a link between exposure and chronic diseases a difficult endeavor.

However, large differences in exposure levels between individuals and certain population groups are likely to exist. Using population-based assessments and biomonitoring may help uncover any potential associations between FCMs and chronic health problems such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory disorders.


Conclude the authors, “Since most foods are packaged and the entire population is likely to be exposed, it is of utmost importance that gaps in knowledge are reliably and rapidly filled.”


Food packaging and migration of food contact materials: will epidemiologists rise to the neotoxic challenge?:
Food packaging chemicals ‘may be harmful to human health’:

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Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

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