Many chemicals migrate from packaging onto food products, putting the health of consumers at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals, according to scientists from the United States, Switzerland and Spain.

A commentary article published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health states that although chemicals from packaging, known as food contact materials, leach into food and drinks in minimal amounts, being exposed to them over a lifetime may have a cumulative effect, leading to chronic exposure. On many occasions, food contact materials used in packaging, processing or preparation come directly into contact with food products. Typically, these are made of plastic or have a synthetic material in direct contact with the food, the scientists explained.

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There is no conclusive scientific evidence that wrappers, cans and bottles have adverse health effects, but it is important to take into account the fact that millions of consumers are unwittingly exposed to chemicals in these materials on a daily basis, researchers commented. They suggested that in unborn children, exposure to food contact materials could contribute to chronic disease later in life.

In order to establish if and to what extent food contact materials pose a risk to public health, scientists have called for further research into the links between chemicals and conditions such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.