A new study published online on April 9, 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, reviews mutagenic and genotoxic aspects of essential oils (EOs) and their main components that are intended for use in active food packaging. EOs are aromatic oily liquids extracted from different parts of plants. Several studies have shown EOs to be a good source of antioxidative and antimicrobial properties. The food industry is therefore aiming to use EOs in food contact materials (FCMs) to increase the shelf-life of food products. Llana-Ruiz-Cabello and colleagues compiled evidence on the in vitro toxicological aspects of the EOs from the last 10 years and mainly focused on mutagenicity and genotoxicity. Overall, more genotoxic studies have been reported for the main components of the EOs compared to the complete plant extracts themselves. Most of the main components did not show mutagenic activity. However, the authors emphasize that the step-wise approach recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for evaluation of genotoxic potential of chemicals has not always being followed accurately. Therefore, more studies are needed in this field, ideally conducted according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) protocols. The authors also highlight that mutagenic/genotoxic activities of EOs have been related to metabolic activation. Thus, in vivo tests are required to confirm the absence of genotoxic effects. In conclusion, the authors recommend a case-by-case evaluation of EOs to ensure their safe use in food packaging.

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Llana-Ruiz-Cabello, M. et al. (2015). “In vitro toxicological evaluation of essential oils and their main compounds used in active food packaging: a review.Food and Chemical Toxicology (published online April 9, 2015).