Packaging and storing any kind of food is important, including olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is the model diet for degenerative disease prevention and olive oil is the corner stone of this diet.
Plasticizers are substances that keep synthetic products flexible. They are present in many areas of daily life and the consumer is in constant contact with them, because plasticizers are released into the environment during the manufacturing, the use and the disposal of the products that contain them.
There are five groups of plasticizers. The phthalate (DEHP), the chloroparaffins, the phosphorated plasticizers, the adipates and sebacates.
The phthalates (DEHP) are organic chemicals and the most often used plasticizers in the plastics industry. Concerns have been raised since the 1980s about the effects that phthalates have on the human health. Although their toxicity is low and they are not classified as mutagenic substances, they can cause damage in liver, kidney and the reproductive organs, also can cause birth defects.
The chloroparaffins are classified as carcinogenic components for humans. They can also cause paralysis and neurotoxic effects. Polyvinyl chlorid (PVC) is the very versatile plastic that blends with plasticizers and stabilizers for the production of mainly food packaging materials. These substances can be transferred into the packaged food, causing health damage.
The contamination of olive oil with phthalates occures by migration from packaging materials and also from additives contained in the plastic parts of the machines used for the extraction and packaging of the olive oil.
Sicilian extra virgin olive oil has been found contaminated with plasticizers in the years of 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008 with significant high levels in residues of phthalates, adipates and sebacates. The European Union’s olive oil consumption is the highest in the world. The migration of plasticizers from the plastic bottles into the olive oil is very important to the EU authorities, because most of the olive oil is packaged in PVC bottles.
Plastic containers allow the migration of the toxic substances from the plastic into the olive oil, not only effecting the quality, but its beneficial properties also. Because of the negative effects of the plasticizers on the human health, the monitoring of eatable products for the presence of these substances, has been directed as of great importance.