August 15, 2022

Migration of styrene oligomers from food contact materials: in silico prediction of possible genotoxicity

E Beneventi et al, 2022. Migration of styrene oligomers from food contact materials: in silico prediction of possible genotoxicity, Archives Toxicology, published online.

Styrene oligomers (SO) are well-known side products formed during styrene polymerization. They consist mainly of dimers (SD) and trimers (ST) that have been shown to be still residual in polystyrene (PS) materials. In this study migration of SO from PS into sunflower oil at temperatures between 5 and 70 °C and contact times between 0.5 h and 10 days was investigated. In addition, the contents of SD and ST in the fatty foodstuffs créme fraiche and coffee cream, which are typically enwrapped in PS, were measured and the amounts detected (of up to 0.123 mg/kg food) were compared to literature data. From this comparison, it became evident, that the levels of SO migrating from PS packaging into real food call for a comprehensive risk assessment. As a first step towards this direction, possible genotoxicity has to be addressed. Due to technical and experimental limitations, however, the few existing in vitro tests available are unsuited to provide a clear picture. In order to reduce uncertainty of these in vitro tests, four different knowledge and statistics-based in silico tools were applied to such SO that are known to migrate into food. Except for SD4 all evaluated SD and ST showed no alert for genotoxicity. For SD4, either the predictions were inconclusive or the substance was assigned as being out of the chemical space (out of domain) of the respective in silico tool. Therefore, the absence of genotoxicity of SD4 requires additional experimental proof. Apart from SD4, in silico studies supported the limited in vitro data that indicated the absence of genotoxicity of SO. In conclusion, the overall migration of all SO together into food of up to 50 µg/kg does not raise any health concerns, given the currently available in silico and in vitro data.

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