Unwanted Guests In Food

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

By See-Chung Yip


Most of the time, you know what food you are eating.

Have you ever wondered what is in the packaging material that helped get the food to your table?


The primary role of food packaging is to protect food products. Food packaging can delay product deterioration, retain the beneficial effects of processing, extend shelf life and maintain or increase the quality and safety of food. By doing so, packaging provides protection from the three major external influences: chemical, biological and physical. 1


  • Chemical protection minimises compositional changes triggered by the environment, such as exposure to gases (typically oxygen), moisture or light.
  • Biological protection provides a barrier to microorganisms (pathogens and spoiling agents), insects, rodents and other animals, which helps prevent disease and spoilage.
  • Physical protection shields food from mechanical damage and includes cushioning against the shock and vibration encountered during distribution and transportation.


While food packaging provides these protective benefits—along with secondary benefits such as traceability, convenience and indicators for tampering, which are becoming increasingly important—it can also be a source of chemical contamination in food. The transfer of chemical contaminants from food contact materials into food is called migration.2


Researchers led by the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) published a paper identifying 388 chemicals intentionally used in food contact materials that are harmful according to the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. A breakdown of the chemicals with adverse effects on human health is shown in the below bar chart, 3 and it clearly indicates an immediate need to test for chemicals from food contact materials.4,5


unwanted guests in food


To ensure high levels of food safety, all food contact materials and articles intended for direct food contact must comply with Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 of the European Union.6


Quantification of common plastic additives in food packaging materials by LC-MS/MS

To detect and quantify the plastic additives in food packaging materials, scientists at SCIEX have developed a method using the QTRAP 4500 system. A simple sample preparation method was also performed for the extraction of 10 common additives from these materials by LC-MS/MS.


Findings from using this approach included the following:


  • The lower limit of quantification (LLOQ) was between 0.01 ng/mL and 0.1 ng/mL for all 10 of the plastic additives
  • A simple liquid-liquid extraction method was sufficient
  • Adding a delay column before the mixer efficiently reduces the background interference caused by some tacky additive compounds


Unwanted Guests In FoodTo learn more about this technique for plasticizer analysis and the results achieved, download the related technical note from SCIEX.

Get the technical note >





Figure: An example chromatogram for the 10 plastic additive compounds extracted using the QTRAP 4500 system from SCIEX

Unwanted Guests In Food




2 https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/food-packaging-health/migration







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