Migration of BHT and Irganox 1010 from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) to foods and food-simulating liquids

Food Chem Toxicol. 1987 Apr;25(4):317-26. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(87)90129-3.


The most widely used food-wrapping material is low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Food-wrap grades contain antioxidants to minimize degradation during processing and, in the final films, such additives are normally present at levels of several hundred ppm. During use, the antioxidants may migrate into food stored in LDPE wraps. Two typical antioxidants, BHT and Irganox 1010, were radiolabelled to allow accurate analytical measurement of the extent of their migration into foods and food-simulating liquids (FSL). The results show that BHT, a much smaller and more volatile molecule than Irganox 1010, migrates more rapidly into foods, but the differences are less for FSL. In most instances, migration appears to be controlled by diffusion of the antioxidant in the polymer, and the quantity lost can be correlated in a linear fashion with the square root of time. With aqueous FSL, and, presumably aqueous-type foods, however, anomalies result; the migration is often erratic, but is more closely related to time than to the square root of time. A tentative model developed to explain these facts assumes that the antioxidants decompose in aqueous media and the net migration rate is controlled largely by the rate of chemical decomposition. It is also shown that dry foods can be surprisingly effective sinks for antioxidants under typical storage conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene / analogs & derivatives*
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene / analysis*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Handling*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Polyethylenes*
  • Solubility
  • Time Factors


  • Polyethylenes
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene
  • Irganox 1010