On August 19, 2017, a review study entitled “Food contact materials and gut health: Implications for toxicity assessment and relevance of high molecular migrants” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. Ksenia Groh and colleagues from the Food Packaging Forum (FPF), Zurich, Switzerland, reviewed the scientific literature regarding the influence of food contact chemicals on gut health.

The review shows that some chemicals migrating from food contact materials (FCMs) may negatively impact gut health. These chemicals include, for example, surfactants, N-ring containing substances, some polymers, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7), nanoparticles, and antimicrobials.  Therefore, the authors argue, gut toxicity appears to be an underappreciated endpoint in the chemical risk assessment of compounds migrating from FCMs. A better understanding of this endpoint may contribute to prevention of gut-related chronic diseases.

Further, several subpopulations may have increased intestinal permeability due to a variety of physiological, pathological, chemical, and lifestyle factors, and may therefore be exposed to higher levels of both low (<1000 Da) and high (>1000 Da) molecular weight compounds. As a consequence, the commonly held assumption that the intestinal uptake of high molecular weight compounds is generally negligible may be scientifically unjustified.

Even small amounts of high molecular weight compounds and/or nanoparticles may trigger potentially adverse immune responses in the immune system of the gut, leading for example to inflammation. Low-grade inflammation in the gut and other organs is commonly observed to accompany several chronic disease states. Therefore, the intestinal uptake and potential immune system effects of high molecular weight compounds migrating from FCMs may require further investigation to better understand their risk for human health.

Both the permeability of the gut epithelial barrier and the composition of the gut microbiota contribute to the regulation of immune homeostasis in the gut. The proper functioning of this interconnected system is crucial for gut health and the well-being of an organism as a whole. Indeed, scientific studies have shown that disruption of gut health may be involved in the etiology of several non-communicable diseases, including intestinal, autoimmune, and metabolic disorders, and highlighted the possible contribution of chemical exposures.


Groh K., et al. (2017). “Food contact materials and gut health: Implications for toxicity assessment and relevance of high molecular weight migrants.Food and Chemical Toxicology (published August 19, 2017).