A study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Research identifies food contact materials, especially processing equipment, as prominent contamination source of phthalates (Van Holderbeke et al. 2014). For the study, the researchers from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Belgium analyzed 203 food products and 18 packaging materials for their phthalate content. The samples were analyzed for dimethyl phthalate (DMP, CAS 131-11-3), diethyl phthalate (DEP, CAS 84-66-2), diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (CAS 84-74-2, DnBP), benzylbutyl phthalate (BBP, CAS 85-68-7), dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP, CAS 84-61-7), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP, CAS 117-81-7), and di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP, CAS 117-84-0). The researchers found DEHP and DiBP to be the most detected compounds. DEHP was detected in all packaging materials.  Bread had been previously found to contain high levels of phthalates (e.g. DEHP up to around 1 ppm). The researchers detected DiBP, DnBP, and DEHP in packaging (paper, paper/plastic and plastic), as well as in the flour used to bake the bread. Actual migration studies were not performed; the authors conclude that phthalate levels in bread are not due to one single source but rather a result of contamination throughout the production chain (flour, baking, and to a far lesser extent packaging). The study formed part of the Belgian research project PHTAL, which was carried out between 2009 and 2011.

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Van Holderbeke, M. et al. (2014). “Determination of contamination pathways of phthalates in food poroducts sold on the Belgian market.Environmental Research 134, 345-352.