The processing industry is under regulatory and consumer pressure to ensure better safety of their food products and the packaging. Health concerns about packaging chemicals, such as phthalates, have raised consumer awareness of about the risks posed by materials that may come into contact with the food they buy.
Recent scientific studies have linked the class of chemicals with hormonal disruptions in the body that could result in infertility.
Danish-based Danisco produces the plasticiser from hardened castor oil and acetic acid. It is colourless, odorless and completely biodegradable.
"This allows it to be metabolized upon ingestion as a vegetable oil and it shows no signs of disrupting hormonal activity," Danisco stated.
The new plasticiser, which will be marketed under the brand name Grinsted Soft-N-Safe, can be used for PVC food and beverage packaging without the need to modify equipment, Danisco stated.
Analyst Frost & Sullivan labels the development as "a breakthrough vegetable oil-based plasticiser that will significantly enhance the quality of food and beverage packaging."
The analyst today announced it had awarded Danisco its 2005 award for excellence in research for the food packaging market. The award recognises the investment and research Danisco put into developing Grinsted Soft-N-Safe.
The annual award is given to companies for a research and development programme that has or is expected to bring significant contributions to the industry in terms of adoption, change and competitive posture, Frost & Sullivan stated.
"Danisco is world renowned for its expertise in food ingredient development and has exhaustive intellectual property patents in the field, and Grinsted Soft-N-Safe represents yet another notable addition to its product portfolio," stated Frost & Sullivan analyst Kasturi Nadkarny.
The additive has been authorised for marketing within Europe and has also been included in Europe's positive list for food contact materials, often referred to as the super directive.
In addition, it is considered safe to be used in food contact materials. Danisco is awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and from Japan's regulators.
The plasticiser will be produced at Danisco's plant in Grindsted, Denmark. It can also be used in the production of flexible polyvinyl PVC for consumer products such as toys, bottle cap liners, floorings, teething rings, tubes, cling films, conveyor belts, and medical devices.
A study published by Environmental Health Perspectives last year claims that normal exposure to phthalates could harm the genital development of unborn baby boys. Other animal studies on the toxicity of phthalates have raised questions about its possible effects on human health and sparked calls for further studies on the chemicals.
Phthalates are a class of compounds used most commonly as a softener for packaging and products made with PVC. In the food industry phthalate compounds are most commonly used for plastic packaging materials. The most commonly used phthalate is DEHP.