The toxicological and environmental risks from chemicals in food packaging

AERU have recently undertaken a few projects that have sought to collate and assess the latest evidence on the potential human health impacts of substances used in food packaging. These projects are outlined below.

2020-2021: Regulatory support for the risk assessment and re-evaluation of Bisphenol A as used in food packaging (Ref. GP/EFSA/FIP/2018/02 - Lot 3)

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical manufactured in significant quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonates and epoxy resins, and as an additive in plastics. Polycarbonate plastics have a wide range of applications including food and drink packaging, and food contact materials. BPA is authorised for use in plastic food contact materials, in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011, and its subsequent revisions, on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs. As there are concerns that BPA could leach into food or drink from food contact materials and so may have the potential to harm human health, BPA is currently subject to a specific migration limit (SML) of 0.05 mg kg-1 of food. The SML is the maximum permitted amount of a substance migrating from the packaging into food. This limit ensures that the food contact material does not pose a risk to human health and is an essential tool to help ensure that the health of all consumers, including the most sensitive populations, are protected. Periodically, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) revisits the science underpinning the establishment of the SML and undertakes a new comprehensive risk assessment and re-evaluation of BPA to ensure the SML is fit for purpose and is based on the latest scientific understanding. AERU, in collaboration with UH toxicologists, have been working with EFSA to undertake the groundwork for the latest re-evaluation process.

2019-2020: The toxicological and environmental risks from chemicals in food packaging (Ref. GP/EFSA/FIP/2018/01 – Lot 3)

It is widely recognised that chemicals from packaging and other food-contact materials can migrate into the food itself and thus be ingested by the consumer. Consequently, the monitoring of this migration has become an integral part of ensuring food safety. There are also concerns that some chemicals may leach from plastic packaging and pollute the environment and that, even at very low concentration levels, this may cause environmental problems particularly for wildlife. AERU are currently undertaking a number of projects for Governments and their Agencies to consider the extent of the risks based upon a critical review of existing knowledge.


  • Lewis, K.A. and Tzilivakis, J. (2019) Implementation of the evidence-based risk assessment for the re-evaluation of Bisphenol A: preparatory work on cross-sectional studies. European Food Safety Authority, Parma, Italy.


Prof. Kathy Lewis

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2020.