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Food packaging ‘may be harmful’

Food packaging ‘may be harmful’

Harmful chemicals are regularly being used in some types of food packaging, scientists have discovered.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Jane Mucke of the Food Packaging Forum Foundation and US and Spanish researchers - including Martin Scheringer, John Peterson Myers and Miquel Porta - have called for an investigation into the effect of certain chemicals on the human body and on the development of embryos.  

More than 4,000 substances with unknown effects are currently used to produce food packaging and the team are concerned that consuming these could cause obesity, diabetes and neurological diseases.

Worryingly, formaldehyde, a chemical that is known to cause cancer, is regularly used in the manufacturing of tableware and soft drink bottles.

Ms Mucke and her fellow scientists are concerned that such substances could leak into food and drink, with potentially dangerous consequences.

It is thought that Bisphenol A, a chemical used to line plastic bottles, metal cans and infant feeding cups, could cause fertility problems as it mimics oestrogen. Bisphenol A is set to be banned in France as of 2015.

Until now, there have been no investigations into the impact these chemicals can have on the body following long-term use. However, researchers realise that it would be almost impossible to carry out an accurate study as most people have been exposed to these substances at some point, so a comparison analysis would be difficult to do.

Other experts in the industry are cynical about the call for an investigation as formaldehyde is naturally found in some foods. Senior pharmacology lecturer at the University of Adelaide Dr Ian Musgrave said: "Obviously the concern about formaldehyde from food packaging is significantly overrated, unless we are willing to place 'potential cancer hazard' stickers on fresh fruit and vegetables."

Dr Oliver Jones of the University of Melbourne echoed Dr Musgrave's thoughts on the matter, saying that levels of salt, sugar and fat were much more harmful to a person's health than chemicals used in packaging.


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