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Estimation of exposure to food packaging materials. 3: Development of consumption factors and food-type distribution factors from data collected on Irish children

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There are many initiatives in Europe trying to refine the exposure assessment for food packaging migrants. In the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) uses food consumption and food-type distribution factors to aid the exposure assessment process and generate more realistic estimates of exposure. The present study developed food-consumption factors and food-type distribution factors for Irish children aged 5-12 years from data collected as part of a National Children's Food Survey (NCFS) completed in Ireland in 2003-04, combined with data from the 2003-05 Irish Food Packaging Database and from literature data on surface area-to-weight ratios for food packaging. Consumption factors are defined as the fraction of a person's diet likely to contact a specific food-contact material, while food-type distribution factors reflect the fraction of all food contacting each material that is aqueous, acidic, alcoholic or fatty. In this study, it was found that 'total plastics' had the highest consumption factor of 0.83, while 'total paper and board' had a factor of 0.13 and 'total metal and alloys' had a factor of 0.06. Although it is tentative to compare the US FDA factors with the factors derived in the current study, as the US FDA data are for the total US population, the consumption factor for 'total plastics' in the present study (0.83) was similar to that used by the US FDA (0.79). However, a large difference existed for the consumption factor for 'total metal and alloys' in the Irish data (0.06) and the US FDA data (0.2). In terms of the type of materials used for foods, glass was used mainly for acidic foods (0.67), while plastic was uniformly used for all food types. The food-contact area for plastic packaging for all foods consumed by children was 10.67 dm2/child day-1, which is slightly lower than the proposed value for the average European consumer of 12.4 dm2/person day-1. However, this should be expected, as children do not consume as much food as adults. When scenario exposure estimates were made, it was found that when using European Union assumptions, estimates were much larger than when using consumption factors and food-type distribution factors in the exposure assessment, even when conservative assumptions were employed for the consumption factor. This study highlights the potential use of consumption factors and food-type distribution factors in the refinement of the exposure assessment process and how these factors can be calculated using data collected as part of a national food survey.
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Keywords: Food packaging; consumption factors; exposure; food-type distribution factors

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Nutrition Unit, Division of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Trinity College School of Medicine, St James's Hospital, Dublin 8, Ireland

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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