Unwrapped – Plastic food contact articles and chemical food safety
The BCCDC/NCCEH Environmental Health Seminar Series provides an opportunity for learning and knowledge exchange on a variety of environmental health topics. The seminars can be attended in-person or online.
Speaker: Shirra Freeman, Environmental Health and Knowledge Translation Scientist, NCCEH
Summary: Plastics are emerging as an important environmental public health (EPH) issue. Within this issue, the safety of plastic food contact articles (PFCA) is especially important for EPH practice. PFCA are designed to safeguard the quality and safety of food and are used extensively in food service and retail settings. Plastic packages, utensils, surfaces, equipment and components provide cost-efficient, convenient solutions for handling, processing, preparing and serving food. The main safety concern is that under certain conditions, toxic chemicals may leach from PFCA into foods, exposing consumers to health risks.
While guidelines for physical and microbial safety related to PFCA are established within EPH practice, oversight of chemical risks is rare. Existing federal and provincial legislation on PFCA and chemical risks tend to be broad, making it difficult to develop clear, consistent guidance and enforceable codes at the local level. In addition, extensive useful information from registries has not been translated into forms easily used by field practitioners.
This webinar will focus on PFCA and chemical food safety in food service and retail environments. Issues discussed include prescribed uses of food grade plastics and chemical migration risk. Examples of commonly observed unsafe practices and safer alternatives will be provided as will an overview of trends and gaps in policy. A brief discussion of EPH–relevant issues in plastics, in particular microplastics will also be given.