The MPI in New Zealand undertook a complementary study to establish concentrations of phthalates and printing inks in food/packaging combinations retailed in New Zealand.
74 food/packaging combinations were chosen for sampling, from 30 food groupings, with samples analysed for 14 different phthalate esters, the plasticiser DEHA and 11 different printing inks/photoinitiators.
Detectable concentrations were reported for two phthalates, DEHP and DINP, and/or DEHA in 15 of the sampled food/packaging combinations. Additionally five different printing inks/ photoinitiators were detected in 11 of the sampled food/packaging combinations. Dietary exposure to the detected compounds was estimated through mapping to the simulated diets for different age and gender cohorts from the 2016 New Zealand Total Diet Study and the estimated worst-case dietary exposure was then characterised for health risk against the relevant health based guidance value. For substances without a health based guidance value, estimated dietary exposures were compared to the relevant Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) threshold.
The dietary exposure estimates for all of the age and gender cohorts identified no health risks for the majority of the plastic migration compounds detected. Estimated dietary exposures were below the relevant health based guidance value or TTC for all but one of the compounds that were detected.
One printing ink/photoinitiator, 2,4-Diethyl-9H-thioxanthen-9-on (DETX), detected in a sample of canola oil spread, had an estimated dietary exposure that slightly exceeded the relevant TTC classification threshold, based on its structure triggering carcinogenicity alerts. Following further analysis of the toxicity of structurally similar chemicals, and taking into account the detection in only a single food/packaging combination sample and the high conservatism of the dietary exposure estimate, it was concluded that there was a negligible risk to food safety.
Based on the results of the dietary risk characterisation it was concluded that the migration of phthalates and printing inks/photoinitiators into packaged New Zealand foods is not a concern for human health.
FSANZ has conducted a range of activities to investigate the potential human health risks from migration of chemicals in packaging into food. Taken together, the results of these activities indicate that for Australian and New Zealand consumers dietary exposures to chemicals used in the production of food packaging are generally low and not of concern for human health.
Analysis of a USFDA database of over 1300 food contact substances showed that estimated dietary exposure for 98% of substances is less than 0.01 mg/kg bw/day. For 86% of the substances estimated dietary exposure is below the lowest TTC for non-genotoxic substances. For many of the chemicals with estimated dietary exposure exceeding their respective TTC thresholds, specific toxicity data were located in various databases and the published literature that support the safety of those chemicals.
A conclusion of low risk based on the TTC analysis is supported by the results of a number of analytical surveys investigating the presence of packaging chemicals in Australian and New Zealand foods. These surveys have demonstrated that estimated dietary exposures to chemicals migrating from packaging into food are low and below levels of concern.
The screening methodology used in the 24th Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) to assess 30 food packaging chemicals in Australian foods and beverages identified two chemicals for which more data were needed to enable a more refined risk assessment. These chemicals were the phthalates diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). However, a targeted follow up survey of DEHP and DINP plus five additional plasticisers in Australian foods found that estimated dietary exposures are below the TDIs for these substances and not of concern for human health.
Potential risks from the migration of chemicals in recycled paperboard, particularly MOH, into food are not yet well characterised and research is ongoing internationally. However, FSANZ has recently completed a survey of Australian food packaging and foods and did not find widespread migration of MOH into foods. MOH was only detected at quantifiable levels in two food products, and there was no evidence of a public health and safety concern.
A recent survey of packaging chemicals including phthalates, printing inks and photoinitiators in New Zealand foods also found that dietary exposures to these chemicals are low and not of concern for human health.
The overall conclusion based on the available data is that the human health risk posed by chemical migration from packaging into food and beverages available in Australia and New Zealand is low.
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