Thousands of chemicals found in food packaging

Thousands of chemicals found in food packaging

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    Reconsider the design of plastic, particularly in the food sector, to ensure consumer safety: this is what researchers are recommending who have discovered thousands of harmful substances in food packaging. Two studies notably highlighted chemicals that could affect hormone secretion and metabolism.

    Pot of yogurt, tray of salad, sliced ​​cheese surrounded by cling film… Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) analyzed the packaging of several food products purchased between winter 2020 and spring 2021, and coming from five countries around the world (United States, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, South Korea), selected for their significant consumption of plastic. The objective? Determine whether packaging in contact with food contained substances that could be harmful to consumers.

    Up to 9,936 chemicals in one package

    Published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, their work reveals the presence of (very) numerous chemical substances in the food packaging analyzed. “We found up to 9,936 different chemicals in a single plastic product used as food packaging“, explains Martin Wagner, professor at the Department of Biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a press release.

    But the two studies presented not only highlight the presence of these chemical substances, they also highlight their impact on consumer health. The first research report reveals harmful products that may affect hormone secretion and metabolism. “These functions are absolutely vital. Hormones are the body’s messengers. They are secreted by different glands and allow the different organs to communicate with each other. Metabolism is the sum of the different processes that allow the body to use nutrients to provide the body with the energy and substances it needs to function.“, emphasize the scientists.

    A disruption of the transmission of signals in the body

    The second study demonstrated that the combinations of chemical substances from these food packaging were likely to affect receptors essential for the transmission of signals in the body. The researchers specify that they have identified no less than eleven. “These and other findings show that plastic exposes us to toxic chemicals. They support the theory that we need to redesign plastic to make it safer“, specifies Marin Wagner.

    The authors of this work are rather pessimistic about future discoveries on the chemicals present in this type of plastic. “Since plastic contains so many different chemicals, researchers can still only identify a few at a time. This means we still know very little about the effects of most of these chemicals“, we can read in conclusion.

    Last March, a study conducted by the Food Packaging Forum Foundation also revealed the presence of eternal pollutants in food packaging, some of which “does not appear[ant] in any regulatory or industrial inventory of chemicals used in manufacturing“.