Test: Chemicals from plastic food containers migrate into warm fatty foods

19. jan 2016

As expected lunch boxes fared well in a new test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals and released almost no unwanted substances. However, chemicals from the plastic food containers can migrate into warm fatty foods.


Plastic food boxes
Photo: Istock

Many consumers use plastic food containers to store food for later use. But a new test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals indicates that chemical substances from the containers can migrate into warm fatty food like gravy or lasagna.

A laboratory test which included 8 lunch boxes and 3 plastic food containers shows that the 3 plastic boxes did well when they contained sour foods. But when the test laboratory filled a simulant of fatty foods in the boxes they released chemicals to the content – 2 of the boxes did that to a larger extent.

“The test only measures the amount of chemicals that is released to the food. Consequently, we do not know which substances that migrate from the plastic food containers to the food. But we do not think that materials from plastic boxes should migrate into the food, we eat,” says Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, project manager in the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

The boxes did not contain any suspected endocrine disruptors like phthalates or bisphenol A. But the consumers can take precautions on how they store their food.

“To various degrees all 3 plastic food containers release chemicals to warm fatty foods. Therefore it might be a good idea to store these foods in glass containers if the consumer wants to minimize the risk of migration. They can also leave the food in the pot as long as it is not an aluminum pot which is known to release aluminum to the food,” says Christel Søgaard Kirkeby.

Manufacturer: Our materials improve all the time

At the company Sistema, that produces one of the tested plastic food containers, CEO of Sistema Scandinavia Brian Hansen explains, that the company has constant focus on migration of materials from the boxes to the food.

“We have traced the tested unit back to one of a discontinued material. In other words, since it has been produced and sold there is a new and better combination of raw material. Whether or not the test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals would have turned out differently I do not know. But this form of continuous updates of the raw materials entails that Sistema keeps abreast of the legislation in different regions. And we constantly seek to improve the formulas of the raw materials to keep them as good as possible,” says Brian Hansen.

Lunch boxes did well in test

The lunch boxes in the test did well and only in a few instances some showed limited amounts of released unwanted chemicals.

In the test the 5 lunch boxes of plastic were tested for content of problematic chemicals in the box itself and whether or not they release chemicals to the food.

“We had expected that many of the lunch boxes would receive a good grade and practically all of them met our expectations. Therefor in the lunch boxes it is rather the wrapping paper that the consumers should be attentive to if for example they want to avoid problematic fluorinated substances which can be endocrine disrupting. The consumers can avoid these substances by choosing eco-labeled parchment paper,” says Christel Søgaard Kirkeby.

She also recommends that the consumers avoid use of tin foil for the food in the lunch boxes since it is very energy consuming to produce and consequently causes harm to the environment.

The test of plastic food containers is stricter than the one of the lunch boxes and the 2 tests cannot be directly compared.


For more information:

Mrs Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, csk@fbr.dk, +45 72 11 88 14