Food 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.
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.
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.