On October 4, 2018, the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) held its 6th annual workshop addressing new science and digital opportunities for predicting the safety of food contact articles.

In the first morning session, Ksenia Groh, scientific communication officer at the FPF, shared a vision on improving the safety of food contact articles (FCAs). In her presentation, she first informed about the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and explained that not only lifestyle, diet, psychosocial factors, but also chemical exposures belong to the extrinsic risk factors involved in the etiology of NCDs. Food contact chemicals (FCCs) are one of the main sources of chemical food contamination, both in terms of their number and quantity. Groh identified the high number of FCCs used in FCAs as one of the scientific challenges in the risk assessment and management of these chemicals (Muncke et al., 2017; Groh et al., 2018). Additionally, the lack of hazard and exposure data for many of these chemicals was pointed out as problematic. But even for well-known chemicals of concern, conflicting regulations hamper efficient risk management, Groh explained by referring to FPF publications from the years 2014 and 2017. However, government (FPF reported) and industry (FPF reported) initiatives were seen as promising steps to improve the safety of FCAs. After summarizing the problems with the current risk assessment paradigm, Groh showed how in vitro toxicity testing and the consideration of public health concerns could be used as drivers for improved testing of FCAs’ safety (talk Groh).

Martin Wagner, Associate Professor for Environmental Toxicology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, presented experimental evidence for toxicological effects caused by substances present in plastic. First, Wagner showed results of an approach combining biological and chemical analyses of bottled water samples (FPF reported). Antiestrogenicity was detected in 13 of 18 samples, whereas 16 of the same 18 samples were antiandrogenic. Non-target chemicals analysis revealed that di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate (DEHF, CAS 141-02-6) was consistently correlated with the antagonistic activity. DEHF is a known intermediate in the production of thermoplastics. Since DEHF showed no antiandrogenicity when tested individually, other substances may be present in the bottled water samples contributing to the observed effects, Wagner concluded. Fractionation revealed that only one substance is probably responsible for the observed antiandrogenic effect, but the structure has not been elucidated so far. In the second part of the presentation, Wagner gave an overview of the toxicity of extracts from seven conventional and one bio-based and biodegradable plastics. All eight types of plastics were investigated for their baseline toxicity, oxidative stress induction, estrogenicity, and antiandrogenicity. Additionally, the samples were analyzed by gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-QTOF-MS). Extracts from polyvinylchloride (PVC), polyurethane (PUR), and polylactic acid (PLA) showed higher oxidative stress induction and antiandrogenicity than the extracts from the other types of plastics, which was probably due to the higher levels of additives, Wagner suggested. Finally, he demonstrated how to use the database of Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (FPF reported) for assigning functions to tentatively identified compounds from plastic packaging.

Read more

Ksenia Groh (October 4, 2018). “Improving the safety of food contact articles.” (YouTube; pdf)

Martin Wagner (October 4, 2018). “What is in our packaging? Toxicity and chemicals leaching from plastics.” (video and presentation slides coming soon)


Groh, K., et al. (2018). “Overview of known plastic packaging-associated chemicals and their hazards.Science of The Total Environment (published October 4, 2018).

Muncke, J., et al. (2017). “Scientific challenges in the risk assessment of food contact materials.Environmental Health Perspectives 125(9):095001.

Groh, K., Muncke, J. (2017). “In vitro toxicity testing of food contact materials: State-of-the-art and future challenges.Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 16(5):1123-1150.

Geueke, B., Muncke, J. (2017). “Substances of very high concern in food contact materials: Migration and regulatory background.Packaging Technology and Science DOI: 10.1002/pts.2288.

Geueke, B., et al. (2014). “Food contact substances and chemicals of concern: A comparison of inventories.Food Additives and Contaminants, Part A 31(8):1438-1450.

Wagner, M., et al. (2013). “Identification of putative steroid receptor antagonists in bottled water: Combining bioassays and high-resolution mass spectrometry.Plos One 8(8):e72472.