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  1.   Glass is a long-trusted packaging material for food, beverages and medicines, its earliest production for storage dating back to around 1500BC.[1] It is acknowledged as being a sustainable storage method that is healthy for both the consumer and the environment. Glass is produced from natural raw materials such as sand, soda ash and limestone, and its manufacture produces minimal waste or by-products.[2] Glass is impermeable and non-porous – properties that protect its contents from degradation and tampering. Being recognised as safe, glass containers do not require leaching/extraction testing.[3]   Because it is chemically inert (unlike plastic, which tends to be porous and may have absorbent properties), glass guards its contents from moisture and oxygen. Its glossy surface repels odours and residual flavours, meaning that products stored in glass not only maintain their ‘shelf life’ but freshness and flavour as well.[4] Other advantages of glass’ non-porous surface are that it does not absorb food or bacteria and it can safely be washed at high temperatures. The risk of toxins leaching into food from plastic containers is well-documented, and this risk increases greatly when plastic is heated or microwaved. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics (including some food packaging and plastic bottles), which can leach into food.[5] BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC), and may pose a risk to the environment and health, particularly to unborn and young children's health.[6] Even the so-called ‘BPA-free’ plastics have been shown to contain toxic EDCs.[7] Unlike plastic containers, which leach chemicals when heated, glass containers can be safely heated when in contact with food or drink.  Glass packaging can also be reused indefinitely. Consumers can reuse glass jam jars, for example, to store food. Glass is 100% recyclable, and recycled glass maintains its purity and quality. It is also highly sustainable, as the glass-recycling process uses 40% less energy than what is needed to manufacture from the raw materials.[8] Recycling also saves a large amount of landfill space, as glass sent to landfill does not decompose. Many also agree that the aesthetic value of glass is far superior to that of plastic and that there are economic benefits to be reaped from its almost indefinite lifespan, despite a potentially higher initial outlay. With regard to food packing, preservation and storage, glass has the potential for preserving flavour, taste and quality, as well as, in some cases, increasing the food’s shelf life more than some plastics can. Glass is a more eco-friendly product than plastic, as it can always be recycled, whereas some plastics can not, especially not for reuse as a food contact material. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, glass is safe and does not leach toxins, even at high temperatures. [9] The sole reservation as far as glass containers are concerned is not with the glass itself, but with their lids and seals, which can contain plastics and therefore the associated toxic EDCs. [1] Dean DA (2005). Glass Containers. Retrieved April 2016 from http://202.74.245.22:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/291/Chapter%206.pdf?sequence=7.  [2] IFC (2007). Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines for Glass Manufacturing. Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/384e20804885574ebc0cfe6a6515bb18/Final%2B-%2BGlass%2Bmanufacturing.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&id=1323152002618. [3] GPI (2013). Compliance of Glass Packaging with Human and Environmental Health and Safety Toxics–in–Packaging Requirements. Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.gpi.org/sites/default/files/Compliance%20of%20Glass%20Packaging%20with%20Human%20and%20Environmental%20Health%20and%20Safety%20Toxics.pdf.  [4] van Aardt M, Duncan SE, Marcy JE, Long TE, Hackney CR (2001). Effectiveness of poly(ethylene terephthalate) and high-density polyethylene in protection of milk flavor. J Dairy Sci. 84(6). 1341-7. [5] Schecter A, Malik N, Haffner S, Smith S, Harris TR, Paepke O, Birnbaum L (2010). Bisphenol A (BPA) in U.S. food. Environ Sci Technol. 44(24). 9425-30. [6] Landrigan P, Garg A, Droller DBJ (2003). Assessing the effects of endocrine disruptors in the National Children's Study. Environ Health Perspect. 111(13). 1678-82. [7] Yang CZ, Yaniger SI, Jordan VC, Klein DJ, Bittner GD (2011). Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved. Environ Health Perspect. 119(7). 989-96. [8] Clarence Valley Council (2016). Facts and Figures on Recycling, Waste, Transport and Energy Usage in Australia. Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.clarence.nsw.gov.au/cp_themes/metro/page.asp?p=DOC-TCC-15-16-18. [9] Glass Technology Services (2002). Investigation Of The Significant Factors In Elemental Migration From Glass In Contact With Food. Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.glass-ts.com/userfiles/files/2002-09%20-%20FSA%20-%20A03029%20Final%20Report%20-%20Investigation%20of%20the%20Significant%20Factors%20in%20Elemental%20migration%20from%20Glass%20in%20Contact%20with%20Food.pdf.
  2. Plastics are an integral part of our daily lives. They are generally made of a certain type of monomer (the building block of each plastic type) and several additives, which give the plastic particular characteristics. There are thousands of additives used, with purposes ranging from giving the plastic a certain colour (such as titanium dioxide, used as a white pigment) to stabilising the plastic (such as 2-benzotriazol-2-yl-4-methyl-phenol, also known as Tinuvin®). In our homes, offices, shops, leisure pursuits and transport, most items we come in contact with have some plastic content. However, certain uses will be more obvious than others; for example, we use plastics for containers from milk to shampoo to microwave meals. There are many types of plastics used for packaging, commonly identified by a number included next to the recycling symbol. These numbers are known as the Resin Identification Coding (RIC) system, which indicates the resin from which the plastic was produced. Worryingly, it is known that chemicals contained within the plastic can leach into the food or onto the skin, particularly under high temperatures,[1] making some plastic containers safer than others purely based on their ingredients. Whilst the safest option may be to replace our use of plastic with alternatives such as glass, being able to identify the safest types of plastic can also help us to minimise exposure to toxic chemicals. Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic in the world, and two of its derivatives, marked with the numbers 2 or 4, are considered very safe. Plastic marked with a number 2 is high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is produced from petroleum. It is strong, tough, moisture-proof and relatively impermeable to gases.[2] [3] HDPE is a relatively stable plastic that can withstand high temperatures, and its use in food and drink containers is therefore considered safer than some other plastics. HDPE is used in numerous containers, including milk, water, juice, bleach, detergent, shampoo, yogurt and margarine, as well as cereal box liners. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), plastic number 4, is a thinner, more flexible polyethylene derivative. It is commonly used in frozen food bags, plastic wraps, coatings for milk cartons, hot and cold beverage cups, some squeezable bottles (e.g., honey and mustard) and food storage containers. As it shares many of the same properties as HDPE, it is also a relatively safe plastic for food storage. A thermoplastic polymer called propylene (PP), designated plastic number 5, has similar uses to polyethylene. It is generally stiffer and more heat resistant, so it is often used for serving hot food, and it is considered to be microwave and dishwasher safe. PP is also used in containers for ketchup, yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine and syrup, as well as in straws, bottle caps, water filters and baby bottles. Not all plastics are safe when in contact with food, however. Plastics designated as RIC number 1 contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE or polyester), which may leach antimony.[4] Plastic number 3, polyvinyl chloride (V, vinyl or PVC), may contain and possibly leach numerous harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead or dioxins. Polystyrene (PS), designated RCI number 6, may leach styrene. An RCI designation of 7 indicates any other plastic not specified by categories 1 to 6. Polycarbonate (PC) is a common category 7 plastic, and it has raised concerns regarding chemical leaching.  It may be wise to avoid plastics designated RIC category 1, 3, 6 and 7. It should also be noted that the term ‘microwave and dishwasher safe’ only applies to the physical properties of the plastic, meaning that it will not warp when heated. This does not, however, imply that it is safe for health. Plastics on the market today can pose considerable health risks, especially given that regulations are still in an infancy stage and currently based on business self-regulation. Furthermore, even though few regulations do exist, they do not take into account the potential additive effects that come from having multiple plastic types in one product, or from using products multiple times. The tolerable daily intake (TDI) determined for one chemical may therefore be well above the amount ingested in one exposure, but multiple exposures (or exposures to multiple products) could potentially take the consumer over this safety limit. A safer and healthier alternative is to use glass containers to store food. Glass doesn’t contain the toxic additives that most plastics do, and it is inert, which means that it doesn’t react with the food contained inside it. It also means that it remains safe during high-temperature washing, microwaving and ultraviolet light exposure. Nevertheless, when using glass as an alternative, don’t forget to check the glass against toxic impurities and what the lid is made of, as toxic additive-containing plastic may also be hiding in the form of a closure seal. [1] Kubwabo C, Kosarac I, Stewart B, Gauthier BR, Lalonde K, Lalonde PJ (2009). Migration of bisphenol A from plastic baby bottles, baby bottle liners and reusable polycarbonate drinking bottles. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess.26(6). 928-37. [2] Bikiaris DM, Triantafyllidis KS (2013). HDPE/Cu-nanofiber nanocomposites with enhanced antibacterial and oxygen barrier properties appropriate for food packaging applications. Materials Letters. 93. 1-4. [3] Moyssiadi T, Badeka A, Kondyli E, Vakirtzi T, Savvaidis I, Kontominas MG (2004). Effect of light transmittance and oxygen permeability of various packaging materials on keeping quality of low fat pasteurized milk: chemical and sensorial aspects. Int Dairy J. 14(5). 429-36. [4] Brandão J, Moyo M, Okonkwo J (2014). Determination of antimony in bottled water and polyethylene terephthalate bottles: a routine laboratory quality check. Water Sci Technol: Water Supp. 14(2). 181-8.