The US-based company said it is currently “developing and testing novel technology utilising natural and renewable ingredients to replace fluorochemicals used in food packaging applications”.
Fluorochemicals are currently used in the linings of packaging such as fast-food wrappers, sandwich wraps and microwave popcorn bags for their barrier properties against grease. But a recent study suggested that when fluorochemicals break down they release potentially harmful perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) into the food.
Performance and cost competitive
Penford said prototype products developed using the new ingredients had exhibited “characteristics at least equivalent” to fluorochemical counterparts. It added the technology is designed to be used in existing food packaging production equipment as a cost competitive alternative to fluorochemicals.
A number of major food packaging producers are currently testing the product, which is the subject of a pending patent application, said the company.
“We are truly excited with the development of these naturally derived solutions to address the health and environmental concerns created by use of traditional fluorochemicals,” said company CEO Tom Malkoski. “This new product platform aligns with our strategy to create value for our customers by developing sustainable products to replace petroleum-derived materials.”
The issue of fluorochemicals in food contact materials was highlighted last week after a study from researchers at the University of Toronto raised concerns that PFCAs were migrating into food from some packaging linings.
Scientists from the Canadian university said polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs) present in grease-proofing agents in some food contact materials was one source of human exposure to perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs). Exposure to the chemicals from this source was adding to human chemical blood contamination, said the team led by Professor Scott Mabury.
In the study, rats were exposed to PAPs either orally or by injection and monitored for a three-week period to track the concentrations of the PAPs and PFCA metabolites, including PFOA, in their blood. The team said it had established that humans were exposed to PAPs as part of previous research. The group calculated human PFOA exposure from the PAP metabolism by using PAP concentrations previously observed in human blood along with the PAP and PFCA concentrations observed in the rats.
"In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA,” said Mabury. “We cannot tell whether PAPs are the sole source of human PFOA exposure or even the most important, but we can say unequivocally that PAPs are a source and the evidence from this study suggests this could be significant."