Semi-volatile compounds in food contact material are among the most frequently detected migration impurities. Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are used in PVC production as softening agents and are typically and legally used within food packaging, though their usage is strictly monitored and restricted in the EU. Read the blog on BPA, Phenols and Phthalates.
Testing is performed through liquid injection of an extract of the material or product. The extract is often acquired through automated sample extraction techniques, such as accelerated solvent extraction, which only takes up to 30 minutes. Following simple liquid extraction and concentration, extracts are derivatized to increase analyte volatility.
Testing demands absolute confidence in unknown identification and quantification. Solvent extraction followed by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for semi-volatiles is the typical workflow for these types of compounds. Unknown semi-volatile compounds can also be detected using gas chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS)—an increasingly common technique.
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Some reports have shown that certain foods and beverages, particularly fruit juices, contain high levels of phthalates. In some cases, deliberate adulteration of soft drinks with phthalate esters has been reported.
Bisphenol A (BPA), is one of the primary chemicals used to make plastics. It is also heavily used in the production of various types of food and drink containers. Because BPA has been known to leach from the plastic lining of metal canned food, the potential risks of exposure to BPA have been a great concern over the past few years.