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News

Rapra exploits expertise in food contact materials

Rapra Technology Limited : 04 September, 2006  (New Product)
Rapra Technology is renowned for its expertise in testing and analysing plastics for safety in contact with food. Expert analytical staff such as John Sidwell, Keith Scott and Dr Martin Forrest, have over 15 years of experience in this field.
Rapra Technology is renowned for its expertise in testing and analysing plastics for safety in contact with food. Expert analytical staff such as John Sidwell, Keith Scott and Dr Martin Forrest, have over 15 years of experience in this field.

Legislation has been passed in many different countries to ensure the safety of food packaging and processing materials by agencies such as the FSA (UK), FDA (US) and BfR (Germany). Materials have to pass stringent tests: most commonly a strip of test plastic is placed in contact with an appropriate food simulant at a specified time and temperature. The simulant is then analysed to see if chemicals have migrated from the plastic. The plastic itself can be tested for integrity after being immersed. Cracked and damaged packaging will result if the material selected is not resistant to the food chemistry, this also applies in pharmaceutical and medical applications.

Additives can migrate from the food into the plastic or vice versa, affecting integrity, quality, taste and shelf life of the contents. Fatty food such as dairy and vegetable oils will react differently to packaging materials compared to carbonated fizzy drinks, whisky and fresh produce.

Rapra continues to be at the forefront of development of analytical methods for examination of potential extractables from all types of food-contact materials. This expertise is used for clients in compliance testing of products, for research and also in the submission of data to regulatory authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority and the US Food and Drug Administration. Methods based on gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and/or liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry are widely employed.

There are many different physical requirements for food packaging. Barrier films need to be tested for appropriate properties, in some instances full gas exchange is required, in others the food is packaged in a protective atmosphere and there needs to be an impervious seal. Can linings have to withstand very high temperatures during filling and last for years. Meat netting may reach temperatures of 200 C when a joint is roasted.

Over the past decade, Rapra has run several large research programmes on behalf of the Food Standards Agency in the UK. Dr Martin Forrest has played a major role in the last two projects, which entailed surveying the food processing industry on the use of rubbers in contact with food and then assessing the safety of materials being used. The results have now been published and a summary can be found in the new book by Dr Forrest, Food Contact Rubbers 2, Products, Migration and Regulation, to be published by Smithers Rapra Limited.

The safety of packaging materials is discussed in another new book from Rapra due out in June: Assessing Food Safety of Polymer Packaging by Jean-Maurice Vergnaud and Iosif-Daniel Rosca.

In 2007, Rapra is going to exploit its expert knowledge base by organising a conference in Brussels 21-22 February on Food Contact Polymers. This will look at food-approved grades of materials, legislation and testing. All offers of papers should be submitted by 22nd September 2006.
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