In an article published on May 18, 2017 in the peer-reviewed journal Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, Franky Puype and colleagues from the Institute for Testing and Certification, Zlin, Czech Republic, proposed a generic procedure for detecting contamination of plastic food contact materials (FCMs) by waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE)-relevant substances. Contamination of articles made of recycled plastic by WEEE contaminants, such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) (FPF reported), is a commonly observed phenomenon (FPF reported). Such contamination has also been observed in FCM plastics, for example in Korea (FPF reported) and Europe (FPF reported). This is a matter of serious concerns, because BFRs are persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.

The study authors proposed to screen suspicious plastics (e.g. those colored black) by using defined parameters at several associated levels of importance. First, overall bromine (Br) and antimony (Sb) content should be screened, for example by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) (FPF reported). Combined appearance of Br and Sb points to a higher possibility of BFR presence, since both are used as synergetic flame retardants system. Next, additive and reactive BFRs should be screened, followed by analysis for rare earth elements and other WEEE-relevant elements. Additionally, polymer purity may be assessed.

Adding WEEE waste to plastic FCMs is illegal. However, such articles may still be manufactured due to an intentional addition to make the final product cheaper, or due to an accidental contamination as a result of bad management of WEEE waste. Moreover, because of the lack of efficient screening mechanisms, such articles are still regularly found on the market, the authors emphasized. The generic procedure proposed in this article “enables quick and effective screening of suspicious samples,” and therefore “can be used by authorities in order to monitor compliance.”


Puype, F., et al. (2017). “Towards a generic procedure for the detection of relevant contaminants from waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) in plastic food contact materials: review and selection of key parameters.Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A (published May 18, 2017).