Tag Archives: BPA

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
FST Soapbox

How Are Food and Beverage Professionals Putting Packaging Safety First?

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

As the food and beverage industry manages the continual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety remains a major topic of discussion. While many are aware of how handling practices can impact safety, less attention is sometimes paid to how packaging and materials can also play a significant role.

Good packaging practices and innovative technology—like antimicrobial surface coatings and plastic alternatives—are helping to make food and beverage products safer for consumers.

The Role of Packaging in Food Safety

The packaging process can have a significant impact on the safety of food products. Hygiene and other practices present significant cross-contamination risks. Packaging material choice can also affect safety.

While outbreaks of foodborne disease are somewhat rarer than they were 20 years ago, they remain a serious threat to consumers. In 2018, there were 1,052 foodborne outbreaks in the United States, an increase from the previous year and only a slight decrease from the 1,317 outbreaks in 1998, according to data from the CDC’s National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS) dashboard.

Food and beverage manufacturers are investigating innovative practices and materials to help make their products safer. In response to the pandemic, in December DS Smith announced a partnership with Touchguard to develop antimicrobial coatings for cardboard packaging. One coating created by the two companies has a “proven kill rate of 99.5% in under 15 minutes on bacteria types … and eliminates the risk of person-to-person transfer of infections, such as MRSA and E. coli.

The cardboard is just one of several examples of antimicrobial materials that may help limit the spread of viruses that cause foodborne diseases, like E. coli.

Other businesses are aiming to tackle spoilage during shipping and storage. Innovative experiments could have a major impact on food waste. EU-funded project RefuCoat intends to “develop fully recyclable food packaging with enhanced gas barrier properties.” These materials will keep foods sealed from air and water while also offering recyclability.

New design strategies and technologies can also preserve the freshness of food once customers bring items home from the grocery store.

Portion packaging allows customers to open only the amount they need, leaving the rest sealed for future use. This helps customers avoid relying on home storage strategies, which may not be as effective as factory packaging in keeping food fresh and preventing spoilage.

These strategies also can support existing food safe packaging techniques. For example, portion control can be combined with tamper-evident packaging to make it more obvious when an item at the store has been accidentally opened. This will help ensure that customers only bring home and use food items that they know are safe and as fresh as possible.

Choice of mold release agents used in manufacturing processes that require packaging molds can also have a significant impact on food safety. These chemical compounds help resins and other materials detach from molds once cured, without being damaged. This helps to ensure that the finished product is as close to the mold shape as possible, and isn’t compromised when released from the mold. Certain kinds, like silicon, can produce cleaner finished products and extend the lifespan of packaging, which reduces waste and potentially improves package safety.

These strategies can help protect food from contamination during the packaging process and ensure it remains fresh and safe for as long as possible after leaving the facility.

As customers experiment with new brands and foods, businesses may find they are more willing to try items that use novel packaging strategies.

Safety Risk and Potential in Food Packaging Materials

Like food items themselves, all packaging materials are subject to approval by regulatory agencies, like the FDA or the European Food Safety Authority. However, some substances approved by the FDA can still have health impacts.

For example, bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to make certain industrial plastics and resins, is not banned by the FDA. However, its use has become controversial in the food packaging industry due to potential reported adverse health effects.

Some major manufacturing companies, like Campbell Soup Company, have fully transitioned away from the use of BPA. Others, like the Coca-Cola Co., continue to use the chemical in linings for aluminum cans.

One paper, The FoodPrint of Food Packaging, details how materials used may present health risks—and how alternatives already in use can help the industry create safer packaging.

For example, styrofoam use is declining due to the material’s environmental impact. However, polystyrene is still frequently used in rigid and foam food packaging. Plastic particles made from materials like polystyrene may harm health.

The report also lays out steps that food and beverage manufacturers can take to reduce the use of potentially unsafe chemicals in their packaging. Reusable containers can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated by the food industry while also lowering the health risks packaging presents.

In an article for Packaging Digest, senior editor Rick Lingle briefly summarized the report’s findings and discussed them with Jershua Klemperer, director of FoodPrint. When asked about alternatives to plastics, Klemperer suggested using sustainable packaging materials—like metal, cardboard and fiber—but only if manufacturers can ensure they are not used in combination with unsustainable or potentially harmful materials like PFAS.

Strategies for Improving Food Safe Packaging

Food safety will remain a top priority for the food and beverage industry. Innovative strategies like antimicrobial coatings, portion packaging and plastic alternatives can help manufacturers make safer options. These strategies may become more common over the next few years as consumers become increasingly invested in food safety practices.

BPA in canned food

Report: Food Companies Not Making Good on Vows to Halt BPA Use

By Maria Fontanazza
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BPA in canned food

The use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in bottles, canned foods, and even medical products has been hotly debated for more than a decade. The toxic chemical has been cited in numerous studies as a hormonal disruptor, contributing to a higher risk of asthma, certain types of cancers, type-2 diabetes, obesity, infertility, and attention deficit disorder, along with other health issues.

Buyer Beware
Nearly 200 cans were tested for the presence of BPA-based epoxy resins and other chemicals.

A report released today calls out “alarming” findings on the presence of BPA in canned foods. “Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food”, analyzed 192 canned foods, from fruits and vegetables to soups and gravy to milk for the presence of BPA and other chemicals.

“This report is meant to serve as a wake-up call for national brands and retailers of canned food who are jumping from the frying pan into the fire by elimi­nating BPA and potentially replacing it with regrettable substitutes,” the report’s authors state. “Consumers want BPA-free canned food that is truly safer, not canned food lined with chemi­cals that are equally or more toxic.”

The Good News

The following food companies are no longer using BPA, and the chemical was not found in any of the cans tested from:

  • Amy’s Kitchen
  • Annie’s Homegrown
  • Hain Celestial
  • ConAgra

“Our analysis showed that, across the board, canned food manufacturers both large and small are not making good on their promises to discon­tinue use of BPA.” – Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food

The Bad News

“Grocery stores, big box retailers and dollar stores are not doing enough to eliminate and safely replace BPA in their canned food,” according to the report.  About 62% of retailers’ private label canned food tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins, including those from Albertsons, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Kroger, Target (100%), Trader Joe’s, Walmart (88%) and Whole Foods. However, some of these retailers have adopted policies to lower BPA use in their cans. Whole Foods, for example, has stated that its buyers are not accepting new cans that have BPA in the lining. The report called out the following national companies for testing positive for BPA in its cans:

  • Campbell Soup Company: 15 out of 15 cans
  • Del Monte: 10 out of 14 cans
  • General Mills: 6 out of 12 cans
  • McCormick & Co: (Thai Kitchen). 3 out of 3
  • Nestle Carnation: 3 out of 3

According to the report, Campbell’s, McCormick and Nestle have stated that they will move away from using BPA either this year or in 2017.

Although some companies may have initiatives in place to halt the use of BPA-based epoxy in canned goods, some of the other substitutes could be harmful as well. Aside from BPA, the main types of coatings found among the tested cans were acrylic resins (some of which were polystyrene, which is a potential human carcinogen), oleoresin, polyester resin, and polyvinyl chloride copolymers (a known carcinogen, PVC was found in 18% of private-label cans and 36% of national brands).

The report recommends that manufacturers and retailers make a commitment (and provide a timeframe) to eliminate BPA from all packaging and find safe substitutes. This may be easier said than done considering there isn’t a wealth of data on the safety of BPA-epoxy substitutes. The authors called on industry to take several additional actions:

  • Accountability on the part of can-lining suppliers via public disclosure of the chemical composition of can linings, along with assessment of their effect on health
  • For Congress to adopt the “Ban Poisonous Additives Act”, which bans the use of BPA in food containers
  • Labeling of all chemicals used in liners

Twenty-two organizations in 19 states and Ontario, Canada participated in the report, which was produced by the Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Clean Production Action, Ecology Center, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign, and Environmental Defence.