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FAQ on primary aromatic amines in printing ink for paper napkins and food packaging
BfR FAQ of 28 August 2014
Printing inks for paper napkins and other food packagings made of paper can contain primary aromatic amines (PAA). Some PAA have carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. If there is contact with food over longer period, the PAA can transfer to it before being ingested by humans. The BfR recommends that the existing limit value for the transfer of PAA classified as carcinogenic be checked.
A critical review of the information available allows for the conclusion that at short term contact with the skin and mucous membranes (lips) as well as with foodstuffs an additional health risk is not to be expected.
In the following paragraphs, the BfR has compiled frequently asked questions about primary aromatic amines in printing inks.
- What are primary aromatic amines (PAA)?
- How do PAA get into printing inks?
- How is PAA transferred to food?
- Do PAA pose health risks to consumers?
- What food contact regulations are in place regarding the transfer of PAA from materials and objects?
- What does the BfR recommend?
- What can consumers do?
The term “primary aromatic amines” (PAA) denotes a group of chemical compounds whose simplest version is aminobenzene, also known as aniline. PAA are substances that are used, for example, in the production of certain colourants, so-called azo pigments, notably in the colour range yellow - orange - red.
Azo pigments are used in printing inks as a colouring component. As such, they are also used for printing of materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, for example napkins and baker’s bags. Residues of the PAA used in their production may remain in the finished pigments in the form of impurities.
When printed serviettes are used to serve or wrap food, this can lead to prolonged contact of the printed surface with the food and hence to a transfer of printing ink components. The same applies when food is stored in paper packaging for an extended period of time.
From a health point of view, the potential carcinogenic effect of some members of this class of substance must be taken into consideration for PAA. Whereas a large number of PAA are safe in this respect, some PAA are known human carcinogens. On the basis of studies involving animal experiments, others are seen as potentially carcinogenic for humans. For paper napkins and baker’s bags with colourful print and other printed food contact items, some PAA may pose a health risk, if they are transferred to food.
What food contact regulations are in place regarding the transfer of PAA from materials and objects?
In accordance with Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, the transfer of PAA that have not been assessed specifically must not be detectable in the sum. As detection limit for this requirement, a value of 0.01 micrograms per kilogramme of food has been defined. This maximum permissible value is also used for assessing the transfer of PAA from other materials.
The BfR recommends that the limit value for the transfer of PAA classified as carcinogenic is reviewed. Contact of consumers with these substances should be limited to the greatest possible extent. In the opinion of the BfR, the ALARA principle should apply to these PAA, i.e. their presence in materials that come into contact with food should be as low as technically feasible. To complement the existing total limit value for PAA, the BfR recommends additional restrictions on the transfer of individual substances classified as carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic. The transfer of these PAA to foods and / or food simulants should not be detectable with an analytical detection limit which is five times below the existing total limit value and which is 0.002 milligram per kilogramme of food or food simulant. This recommendation is taken up in the current draft for the regulation on the revision of the food contact regulation (“Printing Ink Regulation”). The BfR additionally recommends that only colour pigments are used that do not contain any carcinogenic aromatic amine components.
The BfR recommendations are predominantly intended for management authorities and / or producers. Until the “Printing Ink Regulation” comes into force, concerned consumers can simply avoid long-term storage of foods in printed paper packaging and refrain from wrapping food in printed serviettes (colour range yellow - orange – red).
FAQ of the BfR
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