Aluminum Packaging and Food Safety Revealed

Ever Bright | Aluminum Packaging and Food Safety Revealed
Aluminum boxes for biscuits and candies

Table of Content

Can aluminum packaging be used to pack food? Is it safe for the human body? Many people have such questions, and many people think it is unsafe.

Why do people have such doubts?

 Why do people have such doubts? Why don’t people think that iron is harmful to the human body? Because aluminum is a non-essential trace element for the human body, excessive intake of it can cause great harm to the human heart, liver, skin, and nervous system.

In traditional concepts, plastic, glass, and iron packaging are the most common materials for packing food. People naturally think that aluminum is harmful to the body, especially after packaging food, this trace element will penetrate the food, and then we eat it into the body, causing irreversible damage.

Some people think that aluminum and citric acid are very poor pairs. Aluminum is complexed by citric acid. Citric acid “loves” aluminum, and when aluminum is exposed to citric acid, citric acid invades the aluminum’s metal structure.

In fact

These links are all spurious, just like the whole cell phone-cancer link in the 1990s. Correlation does not equal causation, and aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s. It is a dementia, and genetic factors largely determine your susceptibility to it.
But experimental results show that citric acid inhibits aluminum corrosion in sodium chloride solutions, and the inhibition efficiency depends on its concentration. “So citric acid itself does not prevent corrosion, but it prevents corrosion from sodium chloride. The fact that citric acid invades the aluminum surface shows a strong affinity for aluminum, which is closely related to its ability to bring aluminum into solution.

Aluminum is toxic if it gets into the brain. However, aluminum in packaging isn’t going to get into the brain.

First, aluminum metal in packaging would have to corrode, converting Al(0) to Al(III), before it could leach into food. This is possible but packaging is designed to prevent this. Even then, Al(III) is poorly absorbed by the intestines (only 0.3% makes it to the blood.) Of the Al(III) that gets absorbed, most is excreted by the kidneys and only a minuscule amount is able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

What are aluminum packaging

Metal aluminum is used to package food in many forms, such as aluminum boxes, aluminum bottles, and aluminum foil. Aluminum boxes are made of aluminum blocks pressed into round or square boxes, and aluminum bottles are cylindrical, usually used to hold liquid foods such as beverages; aluminum foil is an ultra-thin continuous metal sheet made directly from aluminum through a calendering process.

 They themselves do not contain harmful substances such as heavy metals, and high-temperature annealing and disinfection processes are used during the production process. Take aluminum foil as an example, it can be safely in contact with food, and its thickness is usually 0.01-0.03 mm. 

According to the national standard “Refined Aluminum Foil”, the toxic elements in aluminum foil should meet the following regulations: lead: not more than 0.01%, cadmium: not more than 0.01%, arsenic: not more than 0.01%. Therefore, the best choice for packaging for barbecue, food, etc. is high-quality aluminum foil, and its lead content should meet the national standards. Other aluminum packaging, except aluminum foil, if used to hold food, should comply with food contact safety certification and relevant regulations and standards. For example, the requirements of the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Use of aluminum packaging

Ever Bright | Aluminum Packaging and Food Safety Revealed

Aluminum packaging containers have good barrier properties and heat resistance, which can effectively prevent food from contacting the external environment, keep food fresh, and avoid pollution. Moreover, it has a long history as a food packaging material, and has been used in Europe and the United States for more than 40 years. 

Aluminum materials have been widely verified for making food packaging containers, including takeaway packaging. The material itself is non-toxic and harmless, and will not cause harm to the body under normal use conditions, so it can be used with confidence.

Aluminum is a very active metal. It is easily oxidized by oxygen in the air to form aluminum oxide at room temperature and pressure. Aluminum oxide is a dense protective film that can prevent some substances from further corroding aluminum. Moreover, aluminum packaging for food is coated, and no chemical reaction will occur in the air, so no toxic substances will be produced, so it can be used with confidence. But one thing to note is that it is not suitable to store acidic foods in aluminum containers, which will destroy the surface oxide layer and accelerate corrosion. Aluminum packaging boxes can be directly placed in ovens, grills, air fryers, steam cabinets, electric ceramic stoves, and open flames for direct heating, but they are not suitable for heating in microwave ovens.

Application fields

Beverage and food packaging industry

Food Cans: Aluminum cans are another common form of food packaging, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, etc. Aluminum cans have the advantages of corrosion resistance, lightweight, and easy recycling, which can extend the shelf life of food and are easy to carry and use.


Food Boxes: Aluminum food boxes are a form of packaging for various meals and takeaway foods. Aluminum metal boxes have the characteristics of heat preservation, airtightness, and reusability, which are suitable for the takeaway and catering industries.

Ever Bright | Aluminum Packaging and Food Safety Revealed
Aluminum Tea Box

Canned/Bottled Beverages: Aluminum cans are a common form of beverage packaging, such as beer, soda, energy drinks, etc. Aluminum cans/bottles are durable, lightweight, and easy to recycle, suitable for transportation and sales.

Ever Bright | Aluminum Packaging and Food Safety Revealed
Aluminum Beverage Packaging

Pharmaceutical packaging industry

Common forms of pharmaceutical packaging include aluminum-plastic composite packaging, aluminum caps, and aluminum foil bags. Aluminum-plastic composite packaging is most widely used in pharmaceutical packaging, especially for injections, oral tablets, etc., and has good oxygen barrier properties, moisture-proof, fresh-keeping, and protection functions.

At the same time, aluminum foil is also widely used in sealing gaskets and oral liquid caps for pharmaceutical packaging.
Market research institutions predict that the global pharmaceutical aluminum foil market is expected to maintain steady growth in the next few years. According to data released by the World Aluminum Association, the global annual production of pharmaceutical aluminum foil is about 200,000 tons, accounting for about 5% of the global total aluminum foil production. 

Cosmetic packaging industry

Aluminum is also widely used in the cosmetic packaging industry, including aluminum caps, aluminum cans, aluminum tubes, and aluminum foil bags. 

The application of aluminum in cosmetic packaging is mainly due to its good corrosion resistance, plasticity, and decorative properties. In addition, aluminum can also protect cosmetics from external light and oxidation, helping to extend the shelf life of cosmetics.
Aluminum caps are a common cosmetic packaging material. Their main function is to seal cosmetic containers to prevent them from being contaminated or oxidized during transportation and storage.
Aluminum cans are suitable for high-end cosmetics such as perfumes and creams.
Aluminum tubes are usually used for the packaging of liquid and semi-solid cosmetics, such as moisturizers and shampoos.
According to statistics, the annual application of aluminum in cosmetic packaging is about 1.2 million tons. As people’s requirements for cosmetic quality and environmental protection continue to increase, the application of aluminum in this industry will continue to expand.

Why is aluminum widely used?

Aluminium is a popular choice for food packaging due to its superior recyclability and unique product branding properties over other materials such as plastic and glass – aluminum is infinitely recyclable compared to plastic and paper while being lighter and more durable than glass. It is one of the most flexible and versatile elements in the world: easily shaped, stable, and resistant to organic acids, and a good conductor of electricity and heat. It is also one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust, making it widely available.

Advantages

Common coatings

Common interior coating materials include epoxy, polyester, or acrylic based.

It is estimated that Europeans use up to 50 billion cans per year for products such as water, soft drinks, wine and beer.

Cans ensure the safety, quality and nutritional value of food and keep it shelf-stable for years. Canning and bottling food is made possible by internal coatings, which provide a protective barrier between the product and the can container. For consumers, coatings ensure that canned and bottled food can be safely stored long after purchase, while for producers, coatings mean that food can be exported year-round, maintaining taste, texture and color while using lightweight, affordable and sustainable packaging.

A wide range of can coating technologies have been developed to meet consumer demands and brand owner packaging requirements. Common coating technologies are epoxy, polyester or acrylic based. Epoxy coatings have long been the superior technology choice for most players in the metal packaging industry due to their cost competitiveness, robust application and manufacturing properties, and excellent corrosion resistance and flavor preservation properties. This is particularly true in the beverage can market. Epoxy coatings provide superior performance for challenging beverage types such as soda, wine, high alcohol content products, and sparkling water.

Conclusion

In summary, it is generally safe to use aluminum to package food, and it is widely used. It is very important to the entire food industry because of its advantages such as lightness and recyclability.
Although aluminum packaging for food has been shown to be safe, try to avoid contact between aluminum and acidic foods.
Finally, during use, aluminum packaging should be used and recycled correctly to maximize resource utilization.

FAQ

Aluminum packaging materials are generally considered safe for use in food packaging.

Generally, aluminum does not significantly penetrate into packaged foods. Aluminum packaging materials are often coated with a protective coating to prevent contact with food.

The effects of aluminum on human health remain controversial. Under normal use, the amount of aluminum released from aluminum packaging materials does not usually cause health problems for most people. However, long-term high-dose exposure may be associated with certain diseases (such as osteoporosis and neurological diseases)

Different countries and regions may have different regulatory requirements, but they all need to comply with food safety standards and regulations.

Follow the instructions on food packaging, avoid direct contact of acidic or high-salt foods with aluminum, and store food properly to avoid contamination.

Plastic, paper, glass and other materials can be used as substitutes for aluminum

Acidic foods (such as lemon juice) may react with aluminum, causing food quality to deteriorate

Supplier reputation, product certification or standards compliance, packaging integrity and quality control measures, etc.

Aluminum packaging is recyclable and reusable, and is environmentally friendly

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