Food packaging prevents contamination, allows food to be transported easily
and extends shelf life. From time to time concerns are raised about chemicals
migrating from packaging into food. To address this concern FSANZ undertook a
project to assess whether there were any unmanaged risks from packaging
chemicals migrating into food.
This project (Proposal P1034) was completed in October
After a thorough safety assessment
involving targeted and public consultation, a number of surveys and a dietary
exposure assessment, FSANZ has determined that estimated dietary exposure to
these chemicals is low and not of concern for human health.
the final assessment report
Surveillance work for P1034
FSANZ undertook a screening survey of packaging
chemicals as part of the 24th Australian Total Diet
Study. Our initial assessment did not identify any public health and safety
concerns for 28 of the 30 chemicals. There were no detections for half of the
chemicals and detections at low levels (parts per million or part per billion)
for the rest of the chemicals.
However the screening study identified that more
investigation was needed for two phthalates [di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
and diisononyl phthalate (DINP)], to determine whether there are any risks to
public health and safety from these chemicals.
FSANZ undertook a follow
up survey to properly determine the risk from the two phthalates and five
other plasticisers. Results from this survey of 65 foods (sampled from across
five jurisdictions) found that the estimated dietary exposure was below the
tolerable daily intakes (TDIs) for these substances and does not pose a public
FSANZ also recently completed a survey
investigating the migration
of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) from paperboard packaging into Australian
foods. The survey indicated that the levels of MOH from food packaging in
Australian foods are very low and unlikely to be of public health concern.
A further survey (undertaken by the New Zealand
Ministry for Primary Industries) of packaging chemicals including phthalates,
printing inks and photoinitiators in New Zealand foods also found that the
estimated dietary exposure to these chemicals is low and not of concern for
human health. Read the
FSANZ will continue to monitor the
science in this area and is developing guidance, particularly for small and
medium size businesses, to help them ensure packaging is safe.
Consultation on P1034
Consultation with a range of industry, government
and consumer stakeholders (through meetings, surveys and responses to the
consultation papers) guided FSANZ in its considerations during this work.
Preliminary consultations were undertaken
with an Industry Advisory Group comprising peak bodies, packaging industry
members and large manufacturers/brand owners. FSANZ subsequently established a
Packaging Advisory Group (PAG) which had broader stakeholder representation,
including smaller industry members, a consumer representative and
The proposal work also included two rounds
of public consultation.
Previous surveys of food packaging
In 2010 FSANZ surveyed a range of
foods for chemicals associated with packaging materials to assess whether
chemicals that migrate from packaging into foods and beverages present any
health and safety risks.
We analysed 65 foods and beverages packaged in glass,
paper, plastic or cans for chemicals including phthalates, perfluorinated
compounds, epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO), semicarbazide, acrylonitrile and vinyl
The survey built on the FSANZ survey of
bisphenol A (BPA) in foods published in 2010.
The survey results were very reassuring with no
detections of phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, semicarbazide, acrylonitrile
or vinyl chloride in food samples.
ESBO, which is produced from soybean oil and is used in
a range of plastics to give the plastic safe and airtight mechanical properties
to form a good seal between a food container and its lid, was detected at very
low levels in a small proportion of samples analysed. These levels were well
below international migration limits set by the European Union and don’t pose a
risk to human health and safety.
Read the 2010 survey by FSANZ: Survey of
chemical migration from food contact packaging materials in Australian
How is food packaging regulated?
In Australia and New Zealand, manufacturers are
required by the Food Standards Code to ensure food in contact with packaging is
1.4.1 - Contaminants and Natural Toxicants sets out the maximum levels of
some contaminants that may be present in food as a result of contact with
In Australia, Standard 3.2.2
– Food Safety Practices and General Requirements has specific requirements
for food businesses to ensure that when packaging food, only packaging material
that is fit for its intended use and is not likely to cause food contamination
must be used. State and territory Food Acts also make reference to food
In New Zealand, businesses operating a Risk Management
Programme under the Animal Products Act 1999 or a Food Safety Programme under the
Act 2014 must take responsibility for identifying hazards and mitigating
them in their operations. This includes hazards associated with materials that
come into contact with food.
Standard 1.4.1 – Contaminants and Natural Toxicants
SAMPLE: Australian Standard for Plastic Materials
for Food Contact Use, AS 2070-1999 (pdf 121 kb) (For a full copy of
the Standard please contact Standards
Standard 3.2.2 – Food Safety Practices and
New Zealand Animal Products Act
New Zealand Food Act 2014
New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries –
New Zealand Ministry for
Primary Industries – Occurrence and risk characterisation of
migration of packaging chemicals in New Zealand foods