Overview of intentionally used food contact chemicals and their hazards


Food contact materials (FCMs) are used to make food contact articles (FCAs) that come into contact with food and beverages during, e.g., processing, storing, packaging, or consumption. FCMs/FCAs can cause chemical contamination of food when migration of their chemical constituents (known as food contact chemicals, FCCs) occurs. Some FCCs are known to be hazardous. However, the total extent of exposure to FCCs, as well as their health and environmental effects, remain unknown, because information on chemical structures, use patterns, migration potential, and health effects of FCCs is often absent or scattered across multiple sources. Therefore, we initiated a research project to systematically collect, analyze, and publicly share information on FCCs. As a first step, we compiled a database of intentionally added food contact chemicals (FCCdb), presented here. The FCCdb lists 12’285 substances that could possibly be used worldwide to make FCMs/FCAs, identified based on 67 FCC lists from publicly available sources, such as regulatory lists and industry inventories. We further explored FCCdb chemicals’ hazards using several authoritative sources of hazard information, including (i) classifications for health and environmental hazards under the globally harmonized system for classification and labeling of chemicals (GHS), (ii) the identification of chemicals of concern due to endocrine disruption or persistence related hazards, and (iii) the inclusion on selected EU- or US-relevant regulatory lists of hazardous chemicals. This analysis prioritized 608 hazardous FCCs for further assessment and substitution in FCMs/FCAs. Evaluation based on non-authoritative, predictive hazard data (e.g., by in silico modeling or literature analysis) highlighted an additional 1411 FCCdb substances that could thus present similar levels of concern, but have not been officially classified so far. Lastly, for over a quarter of all FCCdb chemicals no hazard information could be found in the sources consulted, revealing a significant data gap and research need.

Authors: Ksenia J Groh, Birgit Geueke, Olwenn Martin, Maricel Maffini, Jane Muncke
; Full Source: Environment international 2020 Nov 25;106225. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.106225.