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Food Contact Materials: A road map to improved safety testing

January 9, 2024
12:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Slides:

Jane Muncke: Food Contact Materials: A Road Map to Improved Safety Testing

Webinars and workshops:

Health Effects and Sources of Melamine Exposure. CHE webinar, 2021.

Plastic Food Packaging: State of the Science on Chemical Constituents and Health Hazards. CHE webinar, 2018.

Food Packaging Forum. 2023. Achieving Safe and Sustainable Food Packaging: Where Are We Now? Workshop held September 28, 2023.

Food Packaging Forum. 2023. "Video abstract: A vision for safer food contact materials."

Studies and articles:

Muncke, J et al. 2020. Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement. Environmental Health 3:19(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-0572-5.

Muncke, J et al. 2023. A vision for safer food contact materials: Public health concerns as drivers for improved testingEnvironment International 180: 108161.

Parkinson, Lindsey. "A novel concept for improved safety assessment of FCMs guided by public health concerns." Food Packaging Forum. September 26, 2023.

 

A large number of chemicals of concern are used in food contact materials, and can migrate from those materials into food. Existing regulatory requirements do not adequately address the health hazards of these chemicals, for several reasons. For example, chemicals intentionally used in food contact materials are generally not tested for endocrine disrupting effects. 

In this 45-minute EDC Strategies Partnership webinar, Dr. Jane Muncke discussed a new study, “A vision for safer food contact materials: Public health concerns as drivers for improved testing.” The study proposes a concept for improved testing of food contact materials and the chemicals used to make those materials. 

The authors outline an approach to testing migration of chemicals out of food contact materials, focusing on the final products such as food containers. This testing protocol would include known and intentionally added chemicals as well as unknown and unintentionally added chemicals. 

The authors also offer a detailed vision of an expanded approach to toxicological testing of chemicals used in food contact materials. Existing testing protocols focus primarily on genotoxicity. For the proposed new approach, adverse health outcomes are grouped into Six Clusters of Disease – categories of chronic disease that are increasingly prevalent and that are associated with chemical exposures. The authors flag the need for additional research to identify the most useful in vitro tests corresponding to these disease categories. 

The proposed Six Clusters of Disease are: cancers; cardiovascular diseases; brain-related disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases; immunological disorders; and reproductive disorders. Examples of carcinogens that are relevant for food contact materials include formaldehyde in melamine-formaldehyde plastics and in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics; antimony trioxide used in the manufacture of PET Plastics; and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in plastic and paper food contact materials. 

The approach outlined in this study, if implemented, could provide a means to identify and adopt safer materials for food contact applications as well as supporting safer material choices in other parts of the economy. Ultimately, the goal is to use science for better protection of public health.

This webinar was moderated by Dr. Jerry Heindel of the Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies (HEEDS) program of Environmental Health Sciences.

Featured Speaker

Jane Muncke, PhD is Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the Food Packaging Forum. She holds a doctoral degree in environmental toxicology and an MSc in environmental science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). During her graduate and postgraduate work she was trained in analytical chemistry and ecotoxicology at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Jane worked in the project management team of Novaquatis, an interdisciplinary research project on urban water management aiming at reducing chemical pollutants in the aquatic environment. After post doctoral work at Eawag in the area of endocrine disruption screening in zebrafish, Jane joined Emhart Glass, a supplier company to the container glass industry. In this position she analysed scientific information on food contact materials, migration, and impacts on human and environmental health. Since August 2012, she has worked for the Food Packaging Forum as Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer. Jane is a full scientific member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), and the Endocrine Society.

This webinar is hosted by the EDC Strategies Partnership, which is co-chaired by Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel and Sarah Howard (Environmental Health Sciences' Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies, HEEDS), Génon Jensen (Health and Environment Alliance, HEAL), and Rachel Massey (Collaborative for Health and Environment, CHE). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page. This webinar is brought to you in partnership with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.