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Poly(ethylene terephthalate), Poly(butylene terephthalate), and Polystyrene Oligomers: Occurrence and Analysis in Food Contact Materials and Food

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  • J. Alberto Lopes, European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency
  • ,
  • E. D. Tsochatzis

Polyesters (PES) and polystyrene (PS) are among the most used plastics in the production of food contact materials (FCM). The existence of compounds that could migrate from these materials into food requires a constant analytical control to ensure the safety of consumers due to consumption. It also implies a significant research challenge for their identification and quantification. One of the most important groups of known FCM migrants are the substances known as oligomers. PES and PS oligomers have long been suspected to possess some toxicological effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the European Food Safety Authority alerted recently to the potential carcinogenicity of styrene, with its oligomers consequently being also in the spotlight. At the same time, PES cyclic oligomers are categorized as having Cramer III toxicity. Many recent works on the occurrence of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), poly(butylene terephthalate) (PBT), and PS oligomers in FCM and food have been published. The oligomeric chemical analysis requires the use of demanding analytical strategies to address their different physicochemical characteristics (melting points, octanol/water partition coefficients, and solubility properties). Chromatographic methods are normally preferred due to the intrinsic complexity of the target matrices, but the reduced amount of reliable analytical standards still hinders the widespread screening analysis of oligomers in food. This work presents the most relevant recent studies and analytical methodologies used in the analysis of PET, PBT, and PS oligomers in food and FCM, as well as current and future challenges.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Pages (from-to)2244-2258
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

    Research areas

  • analytical advances, food contact materials, oligomers, PBT, PET, PS

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