Agency sets migration limits on di-isobutylphthalate

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bfr, Chemical substance, Recycling

Di-isobutylphthalate, a packaging chemical with potentially toxic
health effects, is showing up at alarmingly high rates in foods
such as rice and baking mixtures, according to a report issued
today by Germany's risk assessment agency.

The report serves as a warning to food companies that they might have to repackage their products to avoid potential liability exposure due to the migration of the chemical into their products. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) said concentrations of up to five milligram per kilogram of di-isobutylphthalate (DiBP) have been found in food packaged in cartons. The BfR is recommending a limit of one milligram per kilogram of foods until further health assessments on the chemical are conducted. "Fat-containing, powder and fine grain foods like rice, baking mixtures or breadcrumbs were particularly affected,"​ the Bfr stated. In animal experiments done so far DiBP has been shown to be reprotoxic and embryotoxic, the Bfr stated. DiBP is used as a plasticiser in dispersion glues for paper and packaging. DiBP is also present in recycled materials. So far, there are no scientifically established limit values for the migration of DiBP from packaging to food. The data from long-term toxicity studies, which would be needed for this, are not available, the Bfr noted. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has undertaken a health assessment of di-n-butylphthalate (DnBP), which has a similar structure and effect. ESFA set a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.01 mg/kg bodyweight for DnBP. "On this basis BfR recommends a specific restriction on the migration of DiBP to foods, a so-called specific migration guidance value, of 1 milligram DiBP per kilogram food,"​ the agency stated. "For baby and infant formula this value should be 0.5 milligram." ​The BfR also proposes to re-examine the effectiveness of the proposed restriction on the DiBP level in foods after one year. If necessary, the BfR will take further steps. To generally reduce the DiBP content in recycled paper, the BfR and the UBA advocate a voluntary undertaking by the manufacturers and processors of paper and board to no longer use DiBP-containing glues or printing inks. Dispersion glues used for folding cartons and corrugated paper production in particular are deemed to be an input pathway into foods, the Bfr stated. The problem of the presence of DiBP in food-contact paper and carton was discussed at a special Bfr meeting on 5 July 2007, held with the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) and manufacturers of paper and board. The working group proposed the initial measures as a means of countering the problem for the time being. The meeting was convened because of reports of the presence of DiBP in foods packaged in paper and board. Based on studies published in 2006, the substance is thought to be reprotoxic - one that in animal experiments it causes damage to offspring and impairs fertility. Based on the available toxicological studies a TDI value can still not be established for DiBP as the necessary data from long-term toxicity studies with various DiBP doses are not available, the Bfr stated. Developmental studies in rats exposed to high doses of DiBP and DnBP do, however, show that both substances have comparable effects on offspring. The Bfr proposes that DiBP should be classified as a eprotoxic substance with the European Chemicals Agency and included as a dangerous substance under the relevant EU directive. Associations of all companies involved in the production and processing of paper and board into printing products, packaging or other products should enter into a voluntary undertaking to permanently phase out the use of glues, printing in other products containing DiBP in order to reduce levels in recycled paper, the Bfr stated.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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