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Plastics food packaging gets green light

After the second full year of rigorous expert testing by the Food Standards Agency, plastics film packaging has again been declared 100% safe when measured against the strictest chemical migration limits laid down by law.

The second year survey, part of a three-year programme, involved sampling more than 150 different foods packaged in polyethylene, polypropylene and vinyl acetate copolymer plastics films purchased from branches of all the major national supermarkets as well as smaller convenience stores, grocery shops and off licences.

This comprehensive testing programme searched for the slightest trace of chemical contamination of the food products by the plastics films used. It conclusively “found no evidence of monomer migration from polyethylene or polypropylene” and the FSA report went on to say “similarly vinyl acetate was not detected in any food sample”.

“This report should provide an assurance to the consumer that the Food Safety watchdog is extremely active in its surveillance of food packaging and that the plastics films used conform to the most rigorous safety regulations. This is in sharp contrast to the scare stories and wholly unwarranted concerns that all too frequently capture the headlines,” said PIFA chief executive Jim Pugh,

As an additional safeguard, the testing protocols included deliberately ‘spiked’, blind tested, food products to ensure absolute accuracy. All of these blind tests detected the contaminated sample accurately, yet none of the genuine food tests showed any illegal contamination.

The tests were aimed at seeking out traces of monomers – the chemical building blocks used in the production of plasticS – to establish whether they exceeded controls set out in British and European law to protect consumers from unsafe levels.

The foods tested included margarine, cheese, cottage cheese/coleslaw, yoghurt/dairy desserts, crisps/bagged snacks, chocolate bars, biscuits, bakery products, fruit/vegetables and fruit juices, fresh and cooked meat, sandwiches and frozen foods. Three identical samples of all of these products were purchased to allow controlled testing.

Primary testing methods included gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry based on CEN standard methods. The 41 page Food Standards Agency Report 55/04 can be found on their web site www.food.gov.uk/science.