Food Contact Materials and Packaging Migration

Identify all suspects in food packaging

A Food Contact Material (FCM) is any material approved for food use that comes in contact with food or drink products during manufacturing, packaging, preparation, and storage. They can be made from a variety of materials including plastics, rubber, paper, and metal. The safety of a FCM must be evaluated, as chemicals can migrate from the materials into the food. Food packaging and drinks packaging must be manufactured in compliance with regulations, including good manufacturing practices, so that any potential transfer to foods does not raise food safety concerns, change the composition of the food or have adverse effects on the taste or odor of the product.

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The analysis and identification of packaging impurities involve a diverse range of chemicals; from volatiles to high molecular weight non-volatile molecules and even metals. It is essential that they are monitored as they can be toxic to both humans and animals. Targeted and non-targeted packaging migration and food contact material testing is used to identity such compounds, using a wide range of chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques.

Food contact materials analysis


Sample extraction

Traditional Soxhlet or reflux techniques, used routinely for extractables and leachables testing, are labor intensive often accounting for more than twice the time spent on actual chromatography. They typically require over 24 hours for extraction and consume large quantities of solvent (>150 mL/sample).

Thermo Fisher Scientific offer automated sample preparation solutions to simplify the process for such demanding extractions, allowing for a reduction in time and repetitive functions, while still providing highly reproducible results.

Featured sample extraction resources

  •  Brochure: Unsurpassed Extraction Technology: Accelerated Solvent Extraction—Sample extraction with walk-away capability to produce uncompromised results The Thermo Scientific Dionex ASE 150/350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor systems are for laboratories seeking to spend minimal time and effort to extract samples for chromatographic analysis.
  •  Application Note: Comparison of Soxhlet and Accelerated Solvent Extraction for Leachable and Extractable Analysis of Packing Material—The accelerated solvent extraction technique delivers comparable or more efficient extractions than the traditional Soxhlet extraction method using less time and less solvent. Extractions using two solvents of varying polarity is necessary in Controlled Extraction Studies, because different solvents can provide additional information on extractables.
  • —Learn about the accelerated solvent extraction technique, one of the fastest, safest and easiest techniques available for extracting analytes out of solid and semi-solid samples.

Volatile analysis

Improved sample handling includes the use of autosamplers that can reduce turnaround times and significantly reduce the cost per analysis. Using automated systems, particularly headspace autosamplers, when analyzing for organic volatiles in food contact materials can increase sample turnaround time and in turn lower costs for high throughput laboratories.

Featured volatile analysis resources

  • Brochure: TriPlus 500 GC Headspace Autosampler—Headspace sampling, combined with GC, is recommended for solvent quantitation in flexible food packaging materials. Learn how the TriPlus 500 Autosampler, with Chromeleon CDS software, enables reliable quantitation and confirmation of volatiles in food packaging via mass spectra library matching.
  • Specification sheet: TRACE 1310 Gas Chromatograph—Boost productivity, accelerate response times and lower cost of ownership with the Thermo Scientific TRACE 1310 Gas Chromatograph. The system is ideal for QA/QC, production and research and features instant-connect injectors and detectors.
  • Brochure: ISQ 7000 Single Quadrupole GC-MS System – Now You're Unstoppable—The ISQ single quadrupole GC-MS system features time-proven technology offering an affordable and robust solution. This GC-MS system offers operational simplicity, proven dependability, and unstoppable productivity.
  • Application note: Rapid Residual Solvents in Food Packaging—Learn more about this reliable and robust HS-GC solution that features a dual detector configuration and is compliant with the EN13628-1:2002 standard method. Suited to routine laboratories, this solution provides integrated MHE data processing for easy and automated quantitative data reporting, eliminating the need for external data manipulation.

Semi-volatile analysis

Semi-volatile organic impurities are a complex range of chemicals that often require high selectivity and sensitivity analysis for identification and quantification. High-resolution, accurate-mass (HRAM) mass spectrometry is a perfect solution. Interferences are resolved for the cleanest of spectra and enable confident identification of unknowns while still achieving accurate quantification at the lowest levels.

Featured semi-volatile analysis resources

  • Brochure: TriPlus RSH Autosampler Integrated Sampling System—Utilizing robotic sample handling to expand automated capabilities beyond liquid, headspace and solid-phase microextraction (SPME), offering exceptional precision, unmatched flexibility and ultimate productivity.
  • Brochure: Unprecedented Depth in GC-MS Analysis—For years, scientists have demanded a high-resolution, accurate-mass (HR/AM) system in food contact material analysis. These scientists understand the power that only Thermo Scientific Orbitrap technology can bring to the detailed characterization of their most challenging samples.
  • White paper: The Power of High Resolution Accurate Mass using Orbitrap-based GC-MS—The high resolving power of the system facilitates outstanding mass accuracy, and this combination can be used in a number of food contact materials areas where high confidence in compound discovery, screening, identification, and quantification is required.

Non-volatile analysis

Non-volatile food contact material compounds, for example phthalates, are amongst the hardest to identify. Identify and confirm more compounds rapidly and with confidence by using a benchtop LC-MS/MS system. By combining UHPLC with quadruple precursor ion selection and high-resolution, accurate-mass (HRAM) detection it is possible to deliver exceptional results.

Featured non-volatile analysis resources


Elemental impurities

Elemental impurities are common in printed materials, pigments, foil packaging and also delivery systems. Meet the most challenging regulatory requirements for trace metals analysis in packaging migration and food contact materials.

Featured elemental impurities resources


Featured instrument videos

View these videos to learn more about our food and beverage analytical solutions using the most comprehensive line of instruments, equipment, consumables, chemicals, reagents and software available, or click here to visit the food and beverage video library.


Safety Assessment of Food Contact Materials
Safety assessment of food contact materials

The Role of High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) in the Comprehensive Analysis of the Total Migrate

This white paper describes the issue of chemicals migrating into food from packaging materials, the need to assess the safety of those chemicals that migrate, and the role that HRMS has to play in the related analysis.

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Expert roundtable discussion — What every pesticide analyst needs to know — Register now
Learn all you need to know about food contact material migration – Download infographic