Published On: Thu, Jul 15th, 2021

How Safe Is Our Food Packaging?

When it comes to food packaging, we want to be 100% sure that it’s safe and does not affect the quality of the product stored inside. People are known to say that one’s eating habits tell a lot about that person’s health and his will to live a healthy life. However, the type of food a person chooses based on the way it’s packed tells about just as much about this person’s health. Although some of us may not be fully aware of it, certain packaging materials may have a tremendous effect on the edibles stored inside. 

Sure, we all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. But what about the plastic that comes wrapped around these edibles – won’t they affect the healthiness of your food? And what about bottled water and microwave dinners that all come in a plastic bottle or jar? We all know that plastic is the most commonly used food packaging material, however, what do we know about the potential health-related risks the use of plastic brings along? 

Although not all of us may know about it, plastic is an extremely chemical material. Most plastics contain numerous chemicals including oil and BPA. Besides plastics, there are other commonly used packaging materials such as metal and aluminum bottles and jars, glass bottles and jars, cartons, and paper. What do we know about all these commonly used food packaging materials and the way they affect our products and, potentially, our health? Below, we’ll have a closer look at the most commonly used packaging materials to see what potential health-related risk their use may bring along. After reading through this article, you’ll know exactly what type of food packaging to use and which ones are better to avoid. 

Plastic Food Packaging

First, let’s have a look at one of the most commonly used packaging materials in the world, plastic. A stunning 27% of all food packaging in circulation is made from plastic (Food Packaging Forum, 2018). This makes it the second most used food packaging material right after paper and cardboard. And this should not come as a surprise. When we go to the store or the market, plastics are found everywhere. Whether it’s vegetables, meat, microwave dinners, or even water; it’s all wrapped in plastic. The main reason behind this lies in the fact that it’s a cheap and durable packaging material. But is it also safe for our health?

As of late, the debate on whether the use of plastics as packaging materials can be bad for our health has sparked. Plastic is a highly chemical material that is made from oil. Besides, it often contains a range of other chemicals such as BPA. These chemicals are known to leak out of the plastic when it’s exposed to heat, moisture, or pressure. When this happens, people are afraid it may enter the foods that are stored inside the plastic wrappings and may thus affect its quality. In turn, the chemicals may then enter your body through the affected foods, which is likely to bring along health-related risks. Besides the fact that plastic may hurt our health, it furthermore is extremely bad for the environment. For the production of plastic, chemical products such as oil are used. Besides, most types of plastics are not bio-degradable or recyclable and will thus end up in nature after use. 

Paper Food Packaging

With a whopping presence of 34% in the food industry, paper and board packaging are, by far, the most commonly used. This type of packaging material is used for a vast amount of products including eggs, sauces, and even drinks. Although paper is a seemingly harmless material, there are some ways in which it can harm our health. 

When it comes to paper packaging, you especially have to be aware of products stored in colored and printed paper. When in contact with wet or moist products, the ink of colored paper can easily leak out and get in contact with the foods stored inside. When ink enters the body via food, it can cause hormonal disturbances. Besides, you also have to be careful with recycled paper as this may contain certain chemicals such as Diisobutyl Phthalate and Dibutyl Phthalate. These chemicals are severely toxic and can have a major influence on your health. Therefore, even though the paper is a 100% natural and sustainable product, it’s good to apply caution when purchasing foods that come with a colored paper wrapping. 

Metal Food Packaging

Traditional metal packaging has been around for decades and is especially popular in the food industry where it’s used for canning and preserving foods. Nowadays, about 15% of all food packaging used is made of metal. Although metal packaging has been around for decades, recent debates question whether its use is safe. 

Especially the use of traditional metal packaging made from iron or tin-plate is questioned. This because these materials do easily corrode. As such, they need a protective layer that protects them against corrosion. As you might have guessed, this layer often contains chemicals such as BPA and may thus affect our health upon consumption of the products stored inside. Luckily, there is a safe and affordable metal alternative: aluminum

Aluminum does not corrode like traditional metal packaging and thus does not need a coating. As such, it is free from any chemicals. Aluminum is one of the only packaging materials that is considered to be 100% food-safe by the FDA. Besides, aluminum packaging such as tins and aluminum bottles are furthermore fully recyclable, making it an environmentally-friendly packaging option. The use of aluminum packagings such as bottles and jars does not have any known negative effects on the products stored inside. As such, it’s safe to pick foods that are kept in an aluminum wrapping. 

Glass Food Packaging

With a presence of 11%, glass is considered the 4th most popular packaging material in the food industry. Glass used to be the most popular option in the past, however, the rise of cheaper and more durable packaging options such as metal, paper, and plastic has taken over its place. Nevertheless, glass is still commonly used for storing foods and drinks in the form of glass bottles and jars.

Although pricier, the use of glass packaging does bring along some benefits. Glass packaging simply looks better and it furthermore is very safe. Glass is a completely natural material that, together with aluminum, is the only material considered to be 100% food-safe by the FDA. This because it does not contain any chemicals. Because glass is a natural product, it is furthermore fully recyclable. This makes it an environmentally option as well. Glass packaging may be a bit more expensive, however, it’s a perfect way to go for companies that are looking for a safe, sustainable, and premium packaging option. When it comes to consumers, there is no need to worry about health-related risks when you purchase foods stored in glass.

Author: Wouter Wargerink

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