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News - Good packaging is more than attractive branding!

By Karen Wilson BSc(Hons) MSC NutMed

Good packaging is more than attractive branding!  Getting the packaging right impacts both product quality and health.

Higher Nature uses solely PET plastic bottles because these not only provide the required security and protection our quality products deserve but, crucially, they do not contain bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to possible adverse effects in humans.  

Higher Nature’s striking blue bottles are made to our specification, with sufficient UV protection to ensure quality for the life of its products.

Protecting the product from the elements is paramount:

  • From light - opaque bottles / UV-filtered PET pots to prevent oxidation, especially of oils, and to maintain nutrient potency and flavour.
  • From air - our omega oils are nitrogen-flushed. All containers are induction heat sealed to protect from moisture and to give tamper evidence.
  • From contamination - injection moulding / weld-free design ensures no leaks or external contamination.
  • From hormone disruptors - bisphenol-free, to ensure no xenoestrogens leaching into products.

UV light impacts on colour, flavour and the nutritional components of food. Food is stored in the cool and dark for this reason. Vitamin B12 is a stable vitamin but it degrades if combined with vitamin C and exposed to UV light(1). Polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, taste and colour are among the aspects most vulnerable to deterioration and degradation from UV light.

Consequently, PET containers used by Higher Nature are impervious to UV light, to ensure stability and nutrient-potency. This particularly protects fragile polyunsaturated oils, such as flax oil which oxidises, becoming rancid rapidly in light.

The advantages of PET over other forms of packaging:

PET complies with all international food contact regulations. It is an excellent oxygen and CO2 barrier (better than HDPE), protecting and maintaining product quality and stability.

  • Oxygen transmission: 4.4cc-25mic/100sq in (24hrs) v. (HDPE 185).
  • CO2 transmission: 31cc-25mic/100sq in (24 hrs) v. (HDPE 580).

PET is also a better water barrier than most other plastics, making it ideal for products where moisture can cause deterioration or mould growth. It is tough, durable and virtually unbreakable.

It is also one tenth the weight of glass, reducing shipping costs by 30% and also reducing Higher Nature’s carbon footprint.

As a single material, PET is fully recyclable, using less energy than glass. It is granulated into flakes and reused as bottles and containers or made into carpets, fleecing, luggage, etc. When burned, it produces CO2 and water, leaving no toxic residues.

Bisphenol A - the hidden health hazard in some ‘plastic’

BPA is produced in large quantities and is used, primarily, in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These resins are often used to coat the inside of food cans, enabling canned foods to be heated to kill off bacteria, without the metal contaminating the food.

There is uncertainty regarding the safety of BPA, and its use in contact with food and drinks, after several reports in 2008 questioned its safety, particularly in relation to baby bottles.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) in the US has evaluated the  evidence and expressed some concern for potential exposure of the foetus, infants and children to BPA. However, NTP states that there is insufficient data from human studies to reach conclusions on reproductive or developmental hazards represented by current exposures to BPA. There is, however, mounting evidence of adverse effects in animal studies.

The evidence suggests that BPA may interact with hormone systems (endocrine disruptors). Work is ongoing in a number of countries, in humans, to ascertain if the animal evidence is repeated in human studies. Of particular concern are the effects on the sex hormones - oestrogens and androgens - because of their role in reproduction(2).

Studies also suggest that BPA functions as a xenoestrogen by binding strongly to the oestrogen- related receptor b (ERR-b). ERR-b has been found in high concentrations in the placenta, possibly explaining some findings of high BPA accumulation in this tissue(3).

There are seven classes of plastic used in packaging

Type 7 is a catch-all ‘other’ class and some, including polycarbonate and epoxy resins, are made with Bisphenol A. Types 3 (PVC) and 6 (polystyrene) also contain BPA and this may leach into food. Types 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (polypropylene) do not contain BPA.

Tolerable daily intake is currently set at 0.05mg/kg body weight by EFSA but this is now under review(4) as EFSA has began to reassess the risk, following publication in JAMA(5) correlating medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and elevated liver enzyme activity with BPA concentrations in urine.

In December 2009, the Council of European Union urged Member States to look again at the safety of exposure to endocrine disruptors and to assess the measures needed to protect the environment and human health(6).

BPA exposure is primarily through the diet but some is also present in the atmosphere. BPA can leach into food from the protective epoxy resin coating of canned foods, polycarbonate tableware, storage containers, water bottles and baby bottles. The degree to which BPA leaches from polycarbonate into liquids may depend more on the temperature of the liquid or the bottle rather than the age of the container. Children seem to be particularly at risk but current research may shed further negative light on this chemical.

Current advice from NTP

  • Do not use baby bottles unless they are BPA free.
  • Reduce use of canned foods.
  • Opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel for hot foods and liquids.
  • Don’t microwave plastic food containers made from polycarbonate.

Sound advice, which we at Higher Nature had already taken on board some years ago when we moved all our products into PET.  

Article References

1. Packaging and shrink sleeve conference. Brussels 2004 reported by NutraIngredients. 2. NTP-CERHR Monograph http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/chemicals/bisphenol/bisphenol.pdf 3. MATSUSHIMA a et al Journal of Biochem 2007 142(4)517-24 (Wiki 99). 4. EFSA Journal (2008) 838, 1-3. 5. Lang et al JAMA 2008; 300(11): 1303 1310. 6. Council conclusions on combining effects of chemicals. Council of European Union. 22 December 2009. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/Newsword/en/envir/112043.doc

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