Migration from plasticized films into foods. 3. Migration of phthalate, sebacate, citrate and phosphate esters from films used for retail food packaging

Food Addit Contam. 1988 Jan-Mar;5(1):9-20. doi: 10.1080/02652038809373657.


A UK survey of plasticizer levels in retail foods (73 samples) wrapped in plasticized films or materials with plasticized coatings has been carried out. A wide range of different food-types packaged in vinylidene chloride copolymers (PVDC), nitrocellulose-coated regenerated cellulose film (RCF) and cellulose acetate were purchased from retail and 'take-away' outlets. Plasticizers found in these films were dibutyl sebacate (DBS) and acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC) in PVDC, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), and diphenyl 2-ethylhexyl phosphate (DPOP) in RCF coatings, and diethyl phthlate (DEP) in cellulose acetate. Foodstuffs analysed included cheese, pate, chocolate and confectionery products, meat pies, cake, quiches and sandwiches. Analysis was by stable isotope dilution GC/MS for DBP, DCHP and DEP, GC/MS (selected ion monitoring) for BBP and DPOP, and GC with flame ionization detection for DBS and ATBC, but with mass spectrometric confirmation. Levels of plasticizers found in foods were in the following ranges: ATBC in cheese, 2-8 mg/kg; DBS in processed cheese and cooked meats, 76-137 mg/kg; 76-137 mg/kg; DBP, DCHP, BBP, and DPOP found individually or in combination in confectionery, meat pies, cake and sandwiches, total levels from 0.5 to 53 mg/kg; and DEP in quiches, 2-4 mg/kg.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Citrates / analysis
  • Dicarboxylic Acids / analysis
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Handling*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Organophosphates / analysis
  • Phthalic Acids / analysis
  • Plasticizers / analysis*
  • United Kingdom


  • Citrates
  • Dicarboxylic Acids
  • Organophosphates
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • 2-acetyltributylcitrate
  • 2-ethylhexyldiphenylphosphate
  • dibutyl sebacate