Floating In Our Food: Food Contact Materials

As I am sure you are aware, plastic is everywhere in your kitchen


Plastic is everywhere these days — it is an unavoidable fact of life. You put your leftovers in Tupperware, you use a plastic ladle to serve your soup, and you even use plastic cups for your hot coffee. You then clean these out using plastic scrub brushes and other such utensils.

What Are Food Contact Materials?

FCMs are essentially what it says on the tin: materials that purposefully contact your food. They can be storage containers, linings, spoons, anything of that sort. The EU defines them as such [1]:

  1. Plastic beverage cups
  2. Kitchen utensils, in particular ladles and such

What Do You Mean The Liner In My Can?

Aluminium cans contain a plastic-y liner on the inside of them [2]. These can liners may also contain additives such as filaments or pigments, but as the study I am quoting from pointed out these are not a migratory issue as they seem to stay put — the plastic liner itself remains a concern (It should be noted this test was performed at high temperatures.):

Plastic Cups?

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This cup is polystyrene, but it is here to illustrate a plastic cup. “As seen on American shows like Friends” — https://www.cater4you.co.uk/acatalog/red-plastic-party-cup.html
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Fig. 8 from the referenced quote above: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214289418303296?via%3Dihub#fig0040

What About Kitchen Utensils?

Yes, even here. Though it should be stated that this depends on the type of plastic that makes up your utensils. This article looked at two specific polymers - PA6 and PA66:

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Synthesis of PA6 and PA66: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/figure?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159547.g001

So, Heat?

Well, it seems that heat certainly does have an impact. How though? Evidence seems to point to the impact of heat on the crystallinity of the polymer, or in the case of ethanol its ability to cause “swelling”. In the next article I plan to explore this on a molecular level.


[1] https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/food_contact_materials_en
[2] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fpsl.2018.03.004
[3] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fpsl.2019.100305
[4] https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159547

Food guy, science guy, hacker guy, writer guy, Founder of Let's Eat Labs. Resume at https://www.jeremyheckt.com/resume/

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