Research Nugget

Knowledge about Plastic Food Packaging among Young Adults in South Africa

Although much is written about plastic food packaging safety, a lack of knowledge about plastic food packaging could result in its potential misuse and health concerns. Research funded by the National Research Foundation found that South African adult consumers generally use plastic food packaging incorrectly and are insufficiently informed about the crucial health concerns related to the unsafe use of plastic packaging and migration of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of certain plastics, and BPA alternatives from the packaging into the food products they contain. BPA has been found to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical, i.e. it can adversely affect hormonal and biological systems.

The study surveyed 293 adult consumer participants to understand their utilisation of plastic food packaging; their knowledge around it; and the information sources they consult. In addition, the survey results were used to inform interventions that may be necessary to guide safe and healthy practices in the future.

The study also discovered that plastic identification codes do not always serve an informative and protective role, as they were either ignored or misunderstood by consumers; instead, consumers mainly consulted informal information sources about plastics.

Given the associated health concerns associated surrounding the incorrect usage of plastic food packaging, the study calls for consumer education across all demographics, and the need for Government, food and plastics industries to join forces to ensure that consumers are better informed about safe plastic packaging usage.

The full paper has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and can be accessed here.