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CEDENNA researchers propose modifying standards for plastic food packaging

April 10, 2014

After years of research, academics from the University of Santiago that participate in the Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CEDENNA) have developed a proposal to modify food safety regulations specifically related to the use of plastic materials in contact with foods with the aim of ensuring that food products sold nationally and internationally do not content chemical hazards.

“To be able to reach distant markets we need to ensure food safety. “We cannot afford to lose hard-won markets because of contamination”, stated Dr. María José Galotto, director of the FONDEF project that finished last Friday (28) at the San Francisco Plaza Hotel.
Through this research the team of the Food Packaging Laboratory of the University of Santiago sought to contribute one of the links in the food production chain. According to Dr. Galotto, their contribution is related to “controlling risks that can affect food quality and safety and the efficacy of the packaging material and consequently the safety it provides.”

In this sense, “the project was completed with the presentation to the Ministry of Health of a proposal to modify food safety regulations. The food industry would be required to comply with these new regulations, while at the same time an INN standard would provide a tool for ensuring compliance with the regulations”, stated Dr. Galotto.

In developing the proposal the packaging laboratory team worked hand in hand with private interests in the plastics, food packaging and food industries, as well as the Ministry of Health. “Our main result has been provide the country with a necessary instrument to create perceived value of our products, because we will be able to sell our packaging with the certification and safeguards that ensure their safety for food products, stated Dr. Galotto.

Paulina Chávez from the Ministry of Health stated that it had been a pleasure for theme to participate in this project. “From our perspective, this project makes a concrete contribution to our work. We believe that it brings many benefits to our sector and facilitates our work.
We must concern with all aspects of food safety, which is a difficult task that is presently addressed by a health regulation that covers several areas. In this regard, the standard that LABEN has developed and the analytical methodology that will be used in relation to the concept of migration is vitally important for us.

Methodology to deal with migration

An analytical methodology was also presented at this event, one to measure migrations, which relates to the transfer of packaging materials to foods. In developing the methodology, Chinese and Chilean baby bottles were studied.

A member of the LABEN team, Dr. Alejandra Torres, explained that chemical reactions can occur during the production of polycarbonates that result in the presence of bisphenol A (BPA). “There has been a controversy in the European Union over the presence of this organic compound in plastic food packaging, which has been associated with affects on hormonal activity”. In response, LABEN developed an analytical experiment to measure the specific migration of BPA, along with a mathematical model to complement the proposed regulations.

Development of human capital

The event was also attended by the Director of the Food Science and Technology Department, Dr. Abel Guarda, who acted Alternate Director of the project. Dr. Guarda noted that the academic unit “worked very hard in the development of leaders in the area of food engineering research with the clear aim of increasing the competitiveness of Chilean businesses through innovation and development to ensure food quality and safety”.

Khaled Awad, the deputy director of FONDEF, who also attended the project closure. He stated that FONDEF always thought that this was a good idea and that it was necessary for the country, recalling a number of situations where the research team made efforts to give rise to the project. Mariela Formas, a representative of the private food sector, noted, “for us as an industry it is essential that we have regulations that assure food safety.”

The event was closed by Alejandro Ariosti, an engineer and researcher from the National Institute of Industrial Technologies of Argentina closed the workshop with a discussion of the diverse regulatory frameworks around the world.

Courtesy of Valeria Osorio

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