Food packaging is essential for transporting, storing, handling, and preserving food. The most common food packaging materials are different types of plastic polymers, paper and board, metal, glass, and various multilayer materials. They are used in combination with each other and with other materials, such as printing inks, adhesives, and coatings.
Besides its many useful properties, food packaging is a well-known source of chemicals that can be transferred from the packaging into food and beverages. This process is called chemical migration, and it leads to low levels of chemical mixtures regularly becoming part of everybody’s diet. Some of the migrating chemicals have hazardous properties; for others, the effects on human health are unknown. More information is available in the Fact Sheet on Food Packaging and Human Health.
Many factors influence the chemical migration from packaging into foodstuffs, and not all types of food packaging are equally of concern. There are important differences in the chemical migration behavior for different types of food packaging. Therefore, it is of high importance to understand the material properties of food packaging and how they can affect migration.
The material fact sheets provide brief summaries of applications, material properties, chemical safety, and end-of-life options for five food packaging materials. They focus further on the recycling of the different materials and explain why material properties have an influence on the chemical safety as well as the recyclability.