Do you know harmful chemicals in food packaging

December 20, 2023

        Recently, a statement is released by 33 world-renowned scientists, which provides more evidence to prove the link between food packaging and exposure to harmful chemicals, and meanwhile clarifies the harms for human beings’ health and our earth when using single-use plastics and some of the food packaging with some harmful chemical additives.

        However, it’s little known about the existence of most of these harmful chemicals in the food packaging.

        Many above chemicals, including phthalates, bisphenols and per-and polyfluorinated compounds (PFAS), are used in single-use packaging made of plastic as well as paper or cardboard. Some manufacturers' failure to disclose information about chemicals in packaging materials means that the risks associated with using these packages cannot be assessed. Harmful substances in plastic packaging materials enter the human body during long-term contact with food, thus affecting the health of consumers.

        For the sake of our health, we need to know more about the hazards of chemical additives in food packaging to prevent consumption from affecting our health.

Do you know BPA-one of harmful chemicals?

How do we get in touch in BPA?

        Currently, BPA-containing plastics are commonly used in food containers (such as aluminum cans), baby bottles and other items. BPA is also used to make epoxy resin, which is coated in the lining of canned food containers to prevent metal from corroding and cracking.

        Despite evidence that BPA can cause harm to human health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration still considers BPA as a plastic additive to be safe for food and humans.

        Some companies have voluntarily stopped using BPA in the packaging of infant formula and bottles, but it is still present in other water bottles and food packaging.

What harm does BPA do to the human body?

        There is evidence that BPA can interfere with endocrine production, leading to the following harms:

•Increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes

•Poor reproductive outcomes (such as ovarian and uterine function and sperm quality)

•Children also experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, aggression and ADHD.

And even the lowest levels of exposure can lead to serious, permanent and life-long consequences.

What should we do?

        Since BPA substitutes BPS and BPAF are homologues of bisphenol A ,which are similar structures, they will also have similar hazards. For example, both can also interfere with liver lipid and glucose metabolism. Therefore, the best way is to choose the packaging without BPA, such as drinks and food packaged in glass as well as fruits and vegetables packaged in cans.

What is Phthalates (PAEs)?

        Phthalates are plasticizers designed to make plastics malleable and found in food contact materials and food processing equipment.


How do we come into contact with PAEs?

        Various convenient and fast food delivery apps have made people choose takeout more than ever. Eating is an important source of exposure to some o-PAEs, especially DEHP.

        PAEs can enter our food through packaging, processing and handling. When hot food is placed in the box, PAEs can leach into the food and enter our bodies. Compared with those who did not eat takeaway food, people who ate takeaway food had 20-40% higher levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine.


What harm do PAEs do to the human body?

        O-benzene can act as an endocrine disruptor, which may affect endocrine, leading to childhood obesity or causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and insulin resistance, immune system and allergic diseases etc..


What should we do?

        Plastic products labeled "green products" or "biological products" are nearly safe for us. So we should buy what is with some green or safe labels and avoid potentially dangerous plastics and plastic-lined takeaway boxes.

What is PFAS?

        PFAS consists of nearly 5,000 chemicals that are mobile, persistent, which can accumulate in the environment, and be resistant to grease, water and oil. Generally speaking, we are exposed to PFAS through contact with food packaging.


How do we come into contact with PFAS?

        Food packaging materials contain higher levels of fluorine.

        Last year, a U.S. consumer rights group released a study showing that nearly two-thirds of paper lunch boxes purchased from the top five grocery stores in the U.S. contained higher levels of fluorine, meaning they may have been exposed to PFAS.

        Likewise, 11% of bakery and deli papers also contained higher levels of fluoride. The study by Schaider et al. also found that 46% of food contact paper and 20% of cardboard samples contained fluorine (from "Environmental Science and Technology", 2017).

        The Center for Environmental Health, a U.S. watchdog, has tested the total fluorine content of more than 130 types of disposable tableware. Among them, 100% molded fiber products have higher fluorine content, while products made of bamboo, clay-coated paper, transparent bioplastics and inner Products made from bioplastic paper are tested to be fluorine-free or low-fluorine, which means they are free-PFAS or low PFAS.


What harm do PFAS do to the human body?

        PFAS have been shown to cause reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney and immune problems in laboratory animals. PFAS may also be linked to lower birth rates and thyroid disorders, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


What should we do?

        Safer containers are brown or white cartons made from 100% recycled cardboard which have a seal indicating they are biodegradable. That is to say, this kind of packaging is safe with free-PFAS or low PFAS.


Therefore, having a correct knowledge of plastic packaging will help us judge whether the food packaging we use is safe or not for us. 

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