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Investigation of Chemical Migration into Take-Away Foods


Matched-pairs of 30 take-away foods are to be purchased, with one sample in the intended packaging and the second supplied directly into aluminium foil (food) or glass (beverages). Although logistically complicated, this approach ensures that the packaged sample is a true representation of commercial practice and does not rely on simulation tests in the laboratory. Additionally, samples of empty, unused packaging material will be obtained from the vendors. Analysis of the packaging materials, the control food samples and the packed food samples allow firm conclusions to be drawn as to the nature and extent of any chemical migration that occurs. Forty snack foods are to be purchased. Screening analysis of all packaging materials by headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), liquid extraction followed by GC-MS and liquid extraction followed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) is used to identify potential migrants. The worst case migration potential and the worst case exposure are calculated for all substances detected applying the conventional area: mass food contact ratio as well as the actual food contact ratio for the products. The results of the calculations are then compared with the specific migration limit for substances derived from plastics or the Acceptable Daily Intake / Tolerable Daily Intake or other exposure restrictions assigned, for substances from non-plastics.

More information

Take-away foods are considered to be 'foods packaged immediately prior to sale and consumed off the premises shortly thereafter'. Snack foods are considered to be 'foods designed to be eaten with fingers, not sweetened (confectionery) and not heated (take-away), without further preparation, and usually direct from the packaging'. From a migration perspective, take-away foods assume special importance due to the relatively large packaging usage and their conditions of use, the majority of take-away foods being served hot which may accelerate any chemical migration. Snack foods are generally associated with a large packaging volume (high contact area:mass of food ratio). In addition many snack foods have a high fat content and thus the migration of any lipophilic substances from the packaging into the snack food could be increased.
The objective of this project is to test if there is any chemical migration from the packaging used for take-away and snack foods. Where potential chemical migrants are identified the worst case migration potentials into foods and the associated exposure values are calculated. For any substances where the calculated worst case migration potential and/or exposure values are found to be in excess of any restrictions in place then the migration into foods is determined.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="; target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.

Central Science Laboratory
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