Are we eating chemicals from plastics along with our food?

By Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois,
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Because of all the different types of foods packaged in plastics and the conditions to which these foods are exposed, it is likely that some transfer of plastic and manufacturing components will occur. Whether or not this poses a risk to the consumer depends on the actual substance, its toxicity, and the amount that ends up in the food. These are assessed and regulated by the FDA before the packaging is approved for use. Thus, plastics for foods and beverages are “safe for their intended use” but not necessarily for other uses.
Often, compounds are added to give the final plastic material the characteristics it needs for a particular use. For example, “plasticizers” are added to rigid plastics to make them more flexible so that they can be used as film wraps. Some of these additives can transfer into the food in the container. Whether or not this happens depends on the food and on the conditions (for example, heat) to which it is exposed.
Susan Brewer, Ph.D., Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL


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