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Styrene = Polystyrene? Nope.

You may have read that last week the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its review of the U.S. National Toxicology Program's (NTP) decision to include styrene in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) a few years ago. This has raised a few questions about the safety of polystyrene. Here's what we know and would like to share with you:

Although the names sound familiar and may be confusing, styrene and polystyrene are very different. Styrene is a liquid, and polystyrene is a solid. And, did you know that styrene is naturally present in foods such as strawberries, peaches, cinnamon, beef and coffee and also produced in the processing of foods such as beer, wine and cheese? If you want to geek out further, a good resource is the Styrene Information and Research Center website at (for you chemistry nerds out there) and (for those of us that just took chemistry in college because you had to).

More specifically to our interests, foodservice packaging is made from a wide variety of materials, including polystyrene. These products go through rigorous testing to ensure that they meet stringent regulations, ensuring the safe delivery of foodservice items to consumers.

Polystyrene has been used in foodservice products like cups, takeout containers and cutlery for more than five decades. During that time, polystyrene has been reviewed by various regulatory agencies and scientific bodies, which have deemed it safe for use in contact with food.

Following the NTP report publication in 2011, several additional statements were released confirming the safety of polystyrene:

- The U.S. National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences noted "Styrene should not be confused with polystyrene (styrofoam). Although styrene, a liquid, is used to make polystyrene, which is a solid plastic, we do not believe that people are at risk from using polystyrene products."

- The toxicologist who heads NTP stated "Let me put your mind at ease right away about Styrofoam," noting that levels of styrene from polystyrene containers “are hundreds if not thousands of times lower than have occurred in the occupational setting...In finished products, certainly styrene is not an issue."

Furthermore, the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group provided updated styrene migration data to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just last year. The data showed that current exposures to styrene from the use of polystyrene food packaging remain extremely low, with the estimated daily intake calculated at 6.6 micrograms per person per day. This is more than 10,000 times below the safety limit set by FDA.

Phew! That concludes today's lesson on foodservice packaging. Recess!

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 8/5/2014 12:48:41 PM