MPI concludes food packaging materials are safe

By Nichola Murphy
Thursday, 12 October, 2017

From tins to plastic, food packaging is a crucial part of the food production process. But are these materials ensuring the safety of our food? The simple answer is yes.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) recently conducted a study on New Zealand foods that analysed 74 different packaged and takeaway foods and tested them to see whether chemicals from the packaging had been transferred onto the food. After looking at what risk this posed to public health, they concluded that there are no food safety risks with the use of everyday food packaging materials such as plastic and paper.

"We then looked at the data and carried out a thorough risk assessment. As a result we have found that while there were occasional cases where chemicals from food packaging materials transferred onto food, this occurred at low levels and there is no food safety risks for consumers," said MPI Acting Manager Food Risk Assessment Dr Andrew Pearson.

They were specifically testing for phthalates and printing inks/photoinitiators. Three phthalate moieties were detected in 15 of the sampled foods, including takeaway noodle dishes, meat cuts and patties. Five printing inks/photoinitiators were detected in 11 of the sampled foods, which included pizza and fresh meat cuts.

However, the dietary exposure to these chemicals were deemed "unlikely" to pose any risk and overall the public health risk of the transfer of these chemicals was labelled as "negligible".

"As the regulator for food safety, a key part of our role is to continuously monitor and test for potential hazards in foods and assess whether or not there are any health risks to consumers.

"We will continue to monitor any potential risks in this area and ensure that our approach to food safety is in line with current scientific evidence," said Pearson.

The study by MPI was part of a wider program that the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) agency conducted which assessed food safety concerns regarding chemicals in food packaging across the Tasman. It also evaluated whether there were appropriate regulations to manage any risks posed.​​

Upon conclusion, they found that no regulatory changes were needed in New Zealand or Australia.

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