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Measurement of packaged food intake by children by kilogram of body weight to include type of packaging and foodstuff
Project Code: A03051
University of Newcastle
Adamson, A ; Foster, E
The European Union (EU) approach to assessing exposure of chemical migrants from Food Contact Materials (FCMs) has been to use an intake of 1 kilogram (kg) of food, in contact with a particular material, per 60 kg person per day. It has been proposed that a fat consumption factor should be applied since few if any people eat 1 kg of fat per day. A factor of 5 has been suggested, to give a consumption of 200g of fat per day. An important issue when addressing this is the food intake of children. They consume more food than adults per unit of body weight due to their greater energy needs for growth. On supermarket shelves some food products are targeted specifically at children. Much of this food is in small portions and thus the pack to food ratio may be higher than the conventional 1 kg food per 6 square decimetres (dm2) of packaging used for plastic materials and articles.
The purpose of this project was to quantify the packaged food intake of children and the use of associated food contact materials. The aim was to determine if, and how, the current EU model of 1 kg of packaged food per 60 kg person per day might be modified to ensure specific protection against chemical migration into food marketed for children. The surface areas of food packs were measured to determine the area:food mass ratios and mean values for the total amount of packaged food consumed.
The approach was divided into two stages:
- A pilot study. An extensive database of packaged food (type of packaging, type and weight of foodstuff) was developed. A pilot study was undertaken for a method to record packaged food intake of children aged 0-16 years in six groups (birth to 1 year, 1-3 years, 4-6 years, 7-11(primary) years, 11 (secondary) -14 years and 15-16 years) was undertaken. An overlap at age 11 years was included to account for children in final year of primary school or first year of secondary school. Ten children were recruited from all but 1 group.
- The main study. The tested method and resulting database were used to measure the average daily intake of packaged food of 3 selected age groups. Data analysis was by individual child to give mean daily intake of packaged food (both total and by type of packaging).
In the pilot study, data were collected on food consumed on 4 consecutive days by 59 children, a total of 236 days. In total, 1,164 items were consumed on 4,166 occasions of which 3,136 (75%) were packaged foods. The results of the pilot study were used to guide the decision on which 3 age groups would be selected for recruitment in the main study. Age groups 0-1 years, 2-4 years (pre- school) and 4-6 years (primary school) were chosen.
During the main study, data on the 4-day food intakes of 297 children, approximately 100 from each age group, were collected. Over the course of the 4 days, over 6,500 different food items were consumed. Data for each of these items was processed, that is, the packaging was cleaned, photographed, identified, and entered into the database and the food contact area calculated and filed by ID number in a food packaging library. The packaging information included material type (plastic, glass, metal, paper…). In addition data on product type such as type of plastic (polystyrene, polyethylene…) or paper (virgin, recycled, laminated ….) were included where possible. The nature of the food in contact with the packaging was classified by type as aqueous, acidic, alcoholic, fatty or dry. All packaging collected has been stored in a library of 240 storage boxes which is currently housed at the Central Science Laboratory, York.
Over the 4 day period of the main study, the 297 children consumed a total of 1,646 kg of food of which 978 kg (59%) was packaged. Of these foods 38% were aqueous, 27% dry, 23% acidic and 12% fatty. For all age groups combined 67% of the packaged foods eaten were packaged in plastics. Multilayer packaging was the second highest category at 12%.
Children have higher intakes of food per kg body weight compared with adults due to their increased energy needs for growth. Data has been collected on the level of this intake for specific age groups and what portion of the food consumed was packaged. The children in this study were found to have mean intakes of food packaged in plastic ranging from 27g per kg body weight (for the infants under 1 year) to 51 g per kg body weight (for the 1-4 year olds). This was significantly higher than the 16.7 g/kg body weight derived from the convention that a person of 60 kg could consume daily up to 1 kg of foodstuffs in contact with a particular plastic.
Areas of food packaging in contact with food have also been measured and the ratio of area:food mass calculated. For infants (less than one year old) the mean area of packaging per 1 kg food was less than 6 dm2. For children aged 1-4 years the mean value was 8.3 dm2 and for children aged 4-6 years the mean value was 9.7 dm2. For all age groups, the mean surface area of packaging associated with 1 kg of food was 7.7 dm2.
It should be noted that this study has been conducted on a relatively small sample. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that this is a representative sample of the population as a whole the findings should be treated with the usual caution for such studies.
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