Recycled materials in food packaging and the risk of contamination by toxic chemicals

Last changed: 04 April 2022

Tens of thousands of compounds have been spread into the environment. Some of these can pose a threat to public health if humans are exposed, for example via dietary intake.

The aim of this project is to use a new approach, based on modified cultured mammalian cells, to identify such chemical hazards in food and food contact materials. The great strength with these effect based methods is that they integrate the effects of both known and unknown chemicals as well as potential cocktail effects.

Ambitious societal goals are striving towards both a circular economy and a non-toxic environment. In some cases, these goals are contradictory. E.g., increased use of recycled materials in food packaging may be associated with an increased risk of hazardous chemicals in the packaging, which could potentially contaminate the food.

To achieve both these goals, we need to develop strategies, both from a technical and organizational point of view, to ensure that recycled materials can be used in food packaging without increasing the risks of exposing the population to hazardous chemicals.

In this project, experts in waste research, packaging and toxicology will identify potential goal conflicts between a circular economy and a non-toxic environment, in the area of food packaging. Food packaging materials and barrier materials will be evaluated in the laboratory to study the presence of hazardous chemicals in recycled materials and how barrier materials can be used to ensure that such compounds does not contaminate the food.

The current legislation and regulatory system will be mapped and the strategies used by important industry actors will be studied. By synthesizing the knowledge generated, we will identify and suggest strategies that can be implemented to achieve both these societal goals in parallel. The project will be conducted in closed collaboration with important industrial stakeholders.