On May 29, 2017 the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) published a statement regarding the release of aluminum ions from uncoated aluminum food contact materials (FCMs) into food. Uncoated aluminum trays were subjected to the “cook & chill” processing steps, which simulate food processing commonly used in community facilities (e.g. day care, schools, companies, retirement homes) and include: 1) Hot-filling at ca. 80° C, 2) quick-cooling in ≤ 90 minutes to 3° C, 3) refrigerating for 72 hours at 3° C, 4) reheating to 72° C, and 5) storing for 2 hours at ≥ 65° C. The BfR tested one undivided tray, one 2-compartment tray, and one 3-compartment tray using acidic food simulants (sauerkraut juice, diluted applesauce, sieved tomatoes). The undivided tray was tested with applesauce, the 2-compartment tray with applesauce and sauerkraut juice, and the 3-compartment tray with all three food simulants. In processing step 5, aluminum release from all three trays into the food simulants exceeded the specific release limit (SRL) for aluminum of 5 mg/kg food, set out in the Council of Europe Resolution CM/Res(2013)9 on metals and alloys used in food contact materials and articles.
The BfR notes that the SRL for aluminum was derived by employing the ALARA-principle (“As Low As Reasonably Achievable”) and is not based on toxicological considerations. In a scientific opinion published in 2008, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 1 mg/kg body weight. According to EFSA, aluminum intake via FCMs is low in comparison to intake via naturally aluminum-containing foods. However, daily consumption of food stored in uncoated aluminum trays can significantly contribute to overall dietary aluminum exposure and increase the likelihood of exceeding the TWI, the BfR explains. Because “cook & chill” food processing is used in community facilities, also vulnerable populations such as infants and elderly people can be affected. Therefore, the BfR recommends minimizing any additional exposure to aluminum and switching to different materials for meal trays.
BfR (May 29, 2017). “BfR-Forschung: Nachweis des Übergangs von Aluminium aus Menüschalen in Lebensmittel.” (in German)
BfR (May 29, 2017). “Unbeschichtete Aluminium-Menüschalen: Erste Forschungsergebnisse zeigen hohe Freisetzung von Aluminiumionen.” (pfd; in German)
Chemical Watch (June 6, 2017). “Tests find high aluminium migrationin ‘cook and chill’ foods.”
BfR (June 8, 2017). “Fragen und Antworten zu Aluminium in Lebensmitteln und verbrauchernahen Produkten.” (in German)
EurekAlert! (June 15, 2017). “BfR research: Proof of the transfer of aluminium from menu trays to food.“