tradeoffs in ecological packaging

I haven’t thought much about food packaging, except in the sense that it creates garbage (and that I feel a twinge of guilt when I buy a product with packaging).  I recently read an article “Our Food: Packaging and Public Health,” by L. Claudio.  She directly states that while chemicals from food packaging can migrate to our bodies, the health effects are unknown.

While the link between plastic packaging and food seems obvious to me (after all, plastics are made from toxic chemicals), she mentions other less obvious sources that present potential human health risks.  For example, I  hadn’t considered that the products used to seal the lid onto glass bottles are a source of chemical contamination (makes sense, though).

Food recalls for packaging defects are not common but do happen: Kellogg had a recall for a liner with problems and lead in glass jars. The article lists plenty of other examples.

Apparently recycled paper products present a health hazard: printing inks, used in the paper’s previous life, can become trapped in the recycled product. This can be problematic when the paper is used for food packaging: a true unintended consequence of trying to reduce waste. This struck me – after all, we think of recycled packaging and products as superior, but recycling can create new problems even as it tries to solve others.  Again, this makes sense.

The answer to all of this, of course, it to avoid packaged food. Doing so solves multiple environmental and health problems.


One thought on “tradeoffs in ecological packaging”

  1. Hi Carolyn,

    I was sad to learn a few years back that the (white) plastic liner used in all canned tomatoes, which helps prevent an interaction between the metal and acid in tomato, contains some nasty chemicals. Health effect is unknown, but I couldn’t help but switch to buying those preserved in glass jars – or I just use fresh.

    Cheers, Monique

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