Plasticizers found in food

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Plasticizers are chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and durable, and they can be found in a wide range of food samples, often at high levels. The most common plasticizers found in food are phthalates and bisphenols, such as bisphenol A (BPA)14. These chemicals can enter food through food contact materials and packaging, as well as through environmental contamination13. High levels of plasticizers have been found in various food products, including Del Monte sliced peaches, Chicken of the Sea pink salmon, Fairlife Core Power high-protein chocolate milkshakes, Yoplait Original French vanilla low-fat yogurt, and several fast foods, such as Wendy’s crispy chicken nuggets, a Chipotle chicken burrito, and a Burger King Whopper with cheese1. Interestingly, organic foods were found to have just as high levels of phthalates as non-organic products1. High molecular weight phthalates like di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) are commonly used as plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials such as food packaging and food contact materials2. Other commonly used replacement plasticizers include di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), 1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester (DINCH), and dioctyl terephthalate (DEHT)5. The presence of these chemicals in food is a concern due to their potential negative health impacts. These include disruption of the endocrine system, tumor growth, abnormal reproductive function, neurological harm, immune issues, and other effects3. Some studies have also linked exposure to plasticizers to an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease9. Despite these concerns, the FDA currently allows nine phthalates in food contact applications (eight for use as plasticizers and one for use as a monomer)7. However, there is ongoing research and debate about the safety of these chemicals, and some manufacturers have started using non-phthalate replacement plasticizers in commercial products57.
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