Food packaging is a material used as a container or and/or wraps food both directly with food or not (BPOM, 2019). The functions of food packaging are as container for storage, setup, transport and protection and extended shelf life to avoid food spoilage. It also can be used as a media for food information and promotion. There are several types of food packaging:
Paper is made of pulp, commonly used as packaging for solid food. Currently there are more paper packaging laminated by single or double thin plastics or coated by wax to avoid direct contact with food. Those kinds of lamination are frequently used for liquid food, for example: milk, fruit juices.
The advantages: light, cheap, easily set up in storage and transport
The disadvantages: easily torn and burn. The used paper (from magazines or newspaper) used for food packaging containing heavy metal lead (Pb) from the ink and harmful for health. It can easily migrate to food especially when served in hot and fatty condition.
Glass is the mixture of sands with ash soda, limestone or recycled glass
The advantages: inert, good barrier for water and other gases
The disadvantages: easily broken and heavy
Usually metal packaging is made of tinplate-coated steel, chrome-coated steel. Steel and aluminium.
The advantages: strong, airtight, extreme condition-proof and ideal surface for labelling
The disadvantages: Sometimes give metallic taste to the food. The chemical reaction between iron spores from rusty cans with certain food can form black FeS, besides forming H2S gas indicated by rotten eggs smell and bulging cans.
Ceramic is generally made of clay or contains high silicate or can be added by organic materials through the burning process. The surface of ceramic also can be coated with paints that may contains lead (Pb) or cadmium (Cd)
The advantages: various designs, good barrier to water and other gases
The disadvantages: easily broken, heavy, cadmium can cause respiratory and kidney problems, lead can cause nerves, kidney, heart and reproductive problems.
Melamine is a co-polymerisation between monomer formaldehyde and melamine. Urea-formaldehyde is more vulnerable to heat, easier to deformed if exposed to heat and cheaper.
The advantages: not easily broken, light, various designs
The disadvantages: melamine can be toxic to kidneys, formaldehyde in long exposure can lead to nose cancer and if swallowed can give burn in mouth and throat.
Plastic is an organic macromolecules compounds that are obtained by polycondensation polymerisation or chemical changes in natural macromolecules
The advantages: light, not easily broken, easily formed and mass-produced, relatively cheap, easily labelled and coloured
The disadvantages: non-biodegradable, generally plastic (PE, PP, PVC) can’t stand heat, some of them have migration potential to release dangerous materials to food.
Here are some tips for using food packaging safely:
- Buy only familiar brands of food containers
- Don’t be easily affected by the cheap price
- Avoid urea-formaldehyde “melamine” because it can release formaldehyde gas that is harmful for health when used for hot food or water.
- For plastic packaging, don’t use black plastic bag (because it is commonly from recycling that is not safe for food packaging), use only plastic packaging that has food grade logo under the packaging.
[BPOM] Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan. 2019. Peraturan Kepala BPOM RI No. 20 Tahun 2019 tentang Kemasan Pangan.
[BPOM] Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan. 2019. Kemasan Pangan: Jenis dan Karaksterisasinya. Booklet.