A review was undertaken of published methods and experimental investigations for the antioxidants and stabilisers of interest. In-house studies and also an extensive study sponsored by the European Commission that examined the stability of a range of plastic additives in food simulants were included in the review.
Based on this review, combined liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was selected as the technique of choice except for the organotin class of compounds. A derivitisation and combined gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method was chosen for these compounds.
Food-contact packaging, food storage containers and articles used in the preparation of food are commonly made from many different types of plastic materials. Various substances are added to the plastic before processing to assist with the production. For example, to prevent thermal and oxidative degradation of the plastic during processing and in subsequent service.
The current European Directive relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs is Commission Directive 2002/72/EC as amended. This Directive lists monomers and starting substances, including antioxidants and stabilisers, that may be used safely in the production of plastics. For some of these permitted chemicals the Directive protects the safety of consumers by setting restrictions - known as specific migration limits (SMLs) - on how much may transfer to foodstuffs, or test simulants (solvents).
The aim of this project was to develop analytical methods (multiple analyte methods) for the detection and quantification of antioxidants and stabilisers included in the food-contact plastics Directive at or below their specific migration limits. The research has been undertaken jointly between Rapra Technology Ltd, Shawbury, UK and TNO, The Netherlands.
The specific antioxidants and stabilisers examined in the research have included:
hindered phenol antioxidants
phosphite and phosphonites
thioester and other sulphur containing non- phenolic stabilisers
polymeric hindered amine light stabilisers (HALS)
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.