Plasticiser danger in food

CHOICE tested foods in glass jars and found contaminants from the plastic used to seal the lids.
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  • Updated:12 Jun 2008

03.What CHOICE tests found

We tested 25 food products in glass jars (see How we tested) and found significant levels of ESBO and the three phthalates DEHP, DIOP and DINP.

  • Nine of the 25 foods contained ESBO at levels well above the EU limit of 60 ppm — one of them, a pesto sauce with 26% fat, contained 840 ppm.
  • Twelve of the foods contained phthalates at levels above their respective EU limits. One, a tandoori dip imported from India, contained 350 ppm of DEHP — that’s about 230 times the EU limit.
  • Five products contained excessive levels of all four plasticisers. Interestingly, three of them were imported from Italy, a member country of the EU.
  • Three of the foods tested were labelled ‘organic’. While one of them (imported from New Zealand) contained only a trace of ESBO, the other two (from Italy and Turkey) contained excessive levels of all four plasticisers. Biological Farmers of Australia told us PVC isn’t permitted in packaging for organic foods produced in Australia.

How we tested

We bought samples of foods in screw-capped jars from Sydney supermarkets and organic food specialists. We looked for products that are:

  • Runny enough for some of the food to slop against the inside of the lid during transport and distribution.
  • Fatty enough to dissolve plasticiser from the gasket. Most have a total fat content of more than 4%, according to the nutrition information panel.

Our lab blended the entire contents of each jar and measured the levels of the following plasticisers:

  • Epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO).
  • Di-iso-octyl phthalate (DIOP).
  • Di-isononyl phthalate (DINP).
  • Di-ethyl-hexyl phthalate (DEHP).

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