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Where is Your Food Packaging Material Migrating to This Winter?

Team TFS
Team TFS
migrationFood packaging material has probably been migrating into its food contents every season for centuries. My research into the history of packaging (link to a great fact sheet) tells us commercial paper bags and cardboard were first used in the late 1800’s. But it’s the modern food contact materials (link to community page) and their potential for leaching contaminants into our food and beverages that is of concern to manufacturers, researchers and consumers alike.

Migration of contaminants into food can come from a wide variety of materials, and can occur during manufacturing, packaging, storage, transport, or contact in the home during preparation and cooking. Some food contact material is well-characterised and testing is routine, but there may still be a risk from potential unknowns that could prove to be a threat to the consumer.


Food Contact Material Contaminants

A great example of a well-characterised and well-regulated area is plastic bottles. These are available in various plastics, such as PVC (poly vinyl chloride), which is often used for bottled water, or LDPE (low density polyethylene), used for milk, and the more widespread polypropylene bottles. One of the most talked-about food contact material contaminants in modern times surrounded the endocrine disruptor BPA (Bisphenol-A) in plastic bottles. Although the health risks are now disputed (link to FDA article), consumers do not forget, and hence we still see BPA-free products highly marketed.

Recently, I have been fortunate to work with Dr. John Gilbert, a renowned expert in this field and a director from Foodlife International (link to company website). Dr. Gilbert gave an absolutely fascinating webinar titled Analytical Challenges in Measuring Migration from Food Contact Materials (link to on-demand webinar registration page) in which he eloquently discusses the topic, and it sparked some interesting discussion from viewers.

The webinar hosts, The Analytical Scientist (link to website), also pointed the audience to an interview they had with Dr. Gilbert, cleverly titled Living in a Material World (link to article). The interview is a wonderful read, as it covers the history, analytical drivers, regulations, and future direction of food contact materials.


Analytical Approaches

Both the webinar and the interview emphasized the analytical drivers and how state-of-the-art analytical approaches to monitoring migration can be implemented. Numerous applications were highlighted, including the benefits of high resolution accurate mass using Orbitrap technology from both a liquid chromatography (link to product page) and gas chromatography (link to product page) perspective.

The applications discussed included UV photoinitiators in packaged food (link to Science Direct article) by Héctor Gallart-Ayala et al, and some interesting work on the hot topic area phthalates in beverages (link to downloadable application note). The applications are backed up by a very informative poster titled Methods for Identification of Known and Unknown Food Contact Materials by Means of HPLC High Resolut... (link to downloadable poster).

The recent application note SPME-GC-MS/MS for Identification and Quantification of Migration Contaminants in Paperboard Food Pac... (link to downloadable pdf) in collaboration with Barilla Food Research Labs in Italy, describes in detail what Dr. Gilbert is alluding to, as it covers a total workflow to meet the stringent regulations in food contact material.


Additional Resources

Check out our Food Community, a wonderful resource that is totally dedicated to our Food and Beverage customers and features the latest on-demand webinars, videos, application notes, and more.


Is food contact material and its applications for analysis of interest to your laboratory? If so, I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences.