WASHINGTON - A Danish business magazine reports that tests it conducted found unsafe levels of carcinogens in many foods wrapped in plastic laminate wrap. The carcinogens, called aromatic amines, are used in glues to hold the layers of the thick plastic wraps together, and can migrate into food if the film is not handled properly, according to the report.
But industry officials in the United States said the amines also occur naturally in foods. The article in the magazine Borsens Nyhedsmagasin did not say if the tests distinguished between amines from the packaging or from the food.
The magazine said Danish public health authorities are examining the problem and have held meetings with industry and government agencies in northern Europe. The magazine said its own tests found amines exceeding safe limits in eight of the 10 foods it tested. Some foods had 30-40 times the safe level, and one brand of mozzarella cheese had 100 times the safe level.
The magazine said amines can migrate when the glue in the multilayer packaging is not allowed the one or two months needed to dry before using it. Packaging manufacturers also can use more expensive, quick-drying glues, the magazine said.
Ralph Simmons, a lawyer with the Washington law firm Keller & Heckman LLP, said it is not clear how the magazine conducted the tests or whether it distinguished between naturally occurring and artificially present amines.
``The way it is described, they are testing the food,'' said Simmons, who handles packaging issues. ``That could be a problem. Testing actual food for migrants from packaging is very difficult - almost nobody does it.''
The magazine said it obtained a 1997 document from a British packaging trade association that said the association was aware of the ``problem of too-high levels of glue residue in food-packaging materials.'' The trade group recommended testing or changes in manufacturing processes, the magazine said.
Ram Singhal, director of technology and regulatory affairs with the Flexible Packaging Association in Linthicum, Md., said he had spoken with officials of the Danish packaging industry trade association, and they echoed Simmons' concerns. He said the Danish government is to issue a report by the end of the year.
Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not respond to requests for interviews.