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Plastic Identification Testing: a solution to food contamination by foreign bodies

The Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition (AECOSAN) has received a notification from the Dutch health authorities through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) related to the presence of plastic fragments in chocolate bars of the brands: SNICKERS, MARS, MILKY WAY, CELEBRATIONS and MINI MIX.

These chocolate bars, manufactured in the Netherlands, had been distributed in 55 countries, among them, Spain. The manufacturing company has informed consumers by means of a press release and it has already begun to withdraw the products with expiry dates from the 19 June 2016 to the 8 January 2017.

The presence of plastic traces in this case reveal a failure on the procedure and the quality control of the product. Nowadays, until food reaches the final consumer, it passes through different industrial processes during which food may suffer contaminations due to the appearance of foreign bodies appearing once they are in the hands of the final consumer.

Although manufacturers take precautions and carry out all the controls needed to ensure that this does not occur, it there can be many different causes of appearance of foreign bodies: contaminated raw materials, fragments of tools, machinery, or conductions, or stuff implied when elaborating food, contamination by worker handling, packaging contamination with packaging remains or contamination during the transport.

The impurities that cause this kind of contaminations are usually quite small. The shape and size diversity limits the number of analytic techniques that can be used to identify the impurity, bearing in mind factors as the speed when obtaining the result and an analysis proportionate cost.

In AIMPLAS we have checked that, by means of Plastic Identification Testing and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR), most of contamination cases by foreign bodies can be solved. In other words, the impurity material can be identified, not only in case of being a plastic, but also in other cases where the contaminant has not a plastic origin.