Characterisation of elastomers as food contact materials–part 1: Quantification of extractable compounds, swelling of elastomers in food simulants and release of elements
Elastomers are not a uniform class of materials but comprise a broad spectrum of chemically different polymers. Sealing gaskets, gloves, teats, conveyor belts and tubing are examples of elastomers being used as food contact materials (FCMs). Ten elastomer samples were evaluated with respect to the content of extractable compounds, migration of substances into ethanolic food simulants, swelling in food simulants and release of elements in different food simulants. The number of extractable substances <1000 Da was determined by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with flame ionisation detection (GC × GC–FID) analysis of tetrahydrofuran (THF) extracts. The number of signals ranged from 61 (a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)) to 690 (a natural rubber/styrene-butadiene-rubber blend (NR/SBR)). As for risk assessment, the decisive factor is which substances reach the food. The extent of substances that migrate into ethanolic food simulants was investigated. Elastomer FCMs can be the source of food contamination with heavy metals. Notably, contamination with lead was detected in some samples investigated in this study. It was shown that food simulants harbour the potential to morphologically alter or even disintegrate elastomeric materials. The results presented here highlight the importance to carefully choose the elastomer type for the intended use as FCMs as not every application may prove safe for consumers.