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PET bottles/containers are safe packaging materials: Study

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The findings establish no endocrine disruption happens from use of PET bottles

A series of rigorous studies, conducted by the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), have endorsed the safety of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles confirming that it does not leach or contain:

  • Heavy metals like arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium, zinc
  • Bisphenol-A
  • Phthalates

The studies further confirmed that antimony does not leach out of PET bottles. These findings further establish that no endocrine disruption happens from the use of PET bottles. The migration studies were at most stringent conditions of time, temperature and accelerated testing environment.

CFTRI – a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – is the nodal institute of the Govt of India for research, technology and testing of Food and Food packaging. CFTRI undertook these studies on behalf of PACE (PET Packaging Association for Clean Environment) to address and authenticate the myths/fears relating to the safety of PET packaging.

Dr Shekhar C Mande, Director General, CSIR and Secretary – DSIR, Govt of India, said, “Packaging helps to preserve and protect the contents and retain their quality over the entire shelf-life. Packaging needs to be physically robust and chemically non-interacting so that the consumers’ interests in terms of critical food safety and security are protected. There have been various materials for packaging of foods evolving over centuries. Plastics offer several advantages in view of their lightness, inertness, abundant availability and cost effectiveness. Of the plastics, PET is a unique and universal packaging material for food, pharmaceuticals, water, edible oils, personal care products, etc.”

“This project is unique, as it investigated not only the leaching aspects, but also examined the composition/chemistry of PET and furthermore, even studied the endocrine disruption potential of PET. In this respect, the findings in these reports would be more relevant than those found in any stand alone tests,” added Dr Mande.

Thus, the studies conducted by CFTRI reiterates the findings of various studies and reviews conducted in the past by renowned Indian and global organisations like US FDA, WHO, FSSAI, MK Bhan Committee, US Pharmacopoeia, Indian Pharmacopoeia, ILSI Belgium, etc. to evaluate the safety of PET for food, beverages and pharma packaging applications. These latest studies at CFTRI should help in alleviating fear and dispelling myths about PET packaging materials.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is widely employed packaging material for drinking water, juices, cola, vegetable oils, pharmaceuticals and various other applications and is 100 per cent recyclable. Interestingly, PET is the same material of which polyester clothes are made and used for the past 70+ years.

Details of the three-part scientific evaluation of PET packaging done by CFTRI

  • The first part of the project involved minute analysis of PET containers for their chemical composition by employing most sophisticated instruments using robust analytical protocols.

NMR spectral analysis revealed that the PET bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate as per approved constituents and ratios without any traces of free monomers, oligomers and other small molecules. No contaminants such as Phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA) or aldehydes were detected either. The ICP-OES analysis indeed detected antimony used as the catalyst to be well below its harmful threshold limit. No heavy metals were detected in PET.

  • In the second part of the project, experiments on migration (leaching) were carried out according to the most stringent European Regulation “Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011”. As prescribed therein, various food simulants were employed for extractions under different temperature and time conditions. These simulants were then analysed for possible migrants/ leachates.

The migration studies showed no antimony and heavy metals) detectable up to 0.001 mg/kg. (one part per billion, ppb) neither any Phthalates (including DEHP) nor Bisphenol-A. This was in line with the findings in the composition studies about the absence of these harmful substances in PET packaging materials.

  • The third part of the project was to determine if PET bottles cause endocrine disruption – the dysregulation of hormones leading to potential health complications – in humans.

To investigate this, water stored in PET bottles and in glass bottles was simultaneously fed to two separate sets of experimental male and female rats for 30 days and 60 days. Effects on their blood hormone levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), a sensitive immunological assay used internationally. The evaluation found that the experimental male and female rats exhibited comparable blood hormone levels in both cases.

This conclusively proved that PET bottles did not cause any endocrine disruption activity if used to package water.

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