2023 journal article
A vision for safer food contact materials: Public health concerns as drivers for improved testing
Food contact materials (FCMs) and food contact articles are ubiquitous in today's globalized food system. Chemicals migrate from FCMs into foodstuffs, so called food contact chemicals (FCCs), but current regulatory requirements do not sufficiently protect public health from hazardous FCCs because only individual substances used to make FCMs are tested and mostly only for genotoxicity while endocrine disruption and other hazard properties are disregarded. Indeed, FCMs are a known source of a wide range of hazardous chemicals, and they likely contribute to highly prevalent non-communicable diseases. FCMs can also include non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), which often are unknown and therefore not subject to risk assessment. To address these important shortcomings, we outline how the safety of FCMs may be improved by (1) testing the overall migrate, including (unknown) NIAS, of finished food contact articles, and (2) expanding toxicological testing beyond genotoxicity to multiple endpoints associated with non-communicable diseases relevant to human health. To identify mechanistic endpoints for testing, we group chronic health outcomes associated with chemical exposure into Six Clusters of Disease (SCOD) and we propose that finished food contact articles should be tested for their impacts on these SCOD. Research should focus on developing robust, relevant, and sensitive in-vitro assays based on mechanistic information linked to the SCOD, e.g., through Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) or Key Characteristics of Toxicants. Implementing this vision will improve prevention of chronic diseases that are associated with hazardous chemical exposures, including from FCMs.