On April 2 and 3, 2019 the International Life Sciences Institute North America (ILSI NA) held its first public “Food packaging conference: scientific advances and challenges in safety evaluation of food packaging materials”, in Washington DC, U.S. (FPF reported). Video recordings of most talks are now publicly available. Participants from the U.S. regulatory authority, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food and food packaging industry, academia, consulting firms, and civil society shared current work related to chemical risk assessment of food packaging chemicals.

Katherine Carlos, FDA, showed results from ongoing US post-market assessments of phthalates in gaskets and fast-food packaging. Phthalates were found to be present at trace levels, which presents a considerable analytical challenge due to phthalate background contamination. A phthalate level of 0.1 ppm in food packaging has been defined as a “level of concern”, and levels up to 1 ppm have been found in marketed food packaging. FDA is currently developing a hand-held phthalates analysis method for detecting levels in food contact articles at food processing facilities.

John Wambaugh, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spoke about ongoing work at the EPA to prioritize risk assessment of chemicals based on estimated hazard and exposure data (video). One of the challenges is the lack of information on chemical use. EPA researchers are developing a tool to predict exposure pathways based on chemical structure, which can be used to predict chemical uses.

Tim Adams, consultant working for the FDA, shared ongoing work on updating the Threshold of Toxicological Concern’s (TTC) (FPF dossier) Cramer Classes (video). Using chronic toxicity data from around 1900 substances with sufficient information on metabolism and toxicity, the decision tree was updated. As a result, 6 new classes have been defined with new thresholds spanning 9 orders of magnitude. According to the novel classification, the lowest threshold of concern is 0.6 µg per person per day as opposed to the current 90 µg per person per day.

Jessica Cooper, FDA, spoke about the update of FDA’s packaging factors that are used to assess exposure to food contact substances for new food contact notifications (video). The Consumption Factor (CF) is the fraction of the daily diet coming into contact with specific packaging materials, and the Food Type Distribution Factor (fT) approximates the distribution of four different food types – aqueous, fatty, acidic, and alcoholic. Some of the values for CF and fT date back to 1980, however market distributions have since changed. Therefore, using data from the IRi database, the FDA estimated preliminary values for CF and fT, which are currently being verified.

The conference featured several other speakers, including Cristina Nerin, University of Zaragoza (video), and Thomas Hartman, Rutgers University (video), who both spoke about the chemical analytical challenges of non-intentionally added substances (NIAS); Christian Kirchnawy, OFI Technologie & Innovation GmbH (video), who shared results from in vitro assays on genotoxicity and endocrine disruption of food contact article migrants; LaShonda Cureton, FDA (video), who spoke about epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) risk assessment; and Jane Muncke, Food Packaging Forum (video), who discussed recent research on hazardous chemicals in food contact plastics.

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ILSI North America (2019). “Food Packaging Conference: Scientific Advances and Challenges in Safety Evaluation of Food Packaging Materials.”

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