Food Packaging Fallacy

RUMOR
Plastic food wraps and packages are made with phthalates.

STATUS
Busted!

ORIGINS
This common misperception is regularly touted in erroneous media reports and other venues.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The term “phthalates,” short for “orthophthalates,” refers to a class of additives, which are used in some plastic products, specifically products made with a particular type of plastic – polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) – to make the material soft and flexible. Vinyl shower curtains, cable and wire, and flooring are examples of flexible PVC products that can contain phthalates.

Most plastic food packaging and storage items (e.g., containers, freezer trays, beverage bottles, resealable bags, etc.) are made with other types of plastics and do not require softening agents, such as phthalates.

Although certain specialized plastic food wraps are made with PVC, adipates and citrates are used as softeners instead of phthalates.

 

PET and Phthalates are not the same: Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a type of plastic used extensively in food packaging applications like beverage bottles, microwavable trays and packaging films. Although “polyethylene terephthalate” (the plastic) and “phthalate” (the additive) may sound alike, they are chemically dissimilar. PET is not considered an orthophthalate, nor does PET require the use of softening additives.

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