An insight into the growing concerns of styrene monomer and poly(styrene) fragment migration into food and drink simulants from poly(styrene) packaging

Asmaa Ajaj, Shayma J’Bari, Anthonia Ononogbo, Federico Buonocore, Joseph C. Bear, Andrew G. Mayes, Huda Morgan

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Poly(styrene) (PS) has been heavily utilised in disposable food packaging due to its insulating properties, optical translucency, and long-shelf life. Despite these desirable characteristics, (PS) poses toxicity concerns to human’s health through styrene monomer leaching into foodstuffs. Environmental and marine hazards are another growing concerns due to improper and/or absence of recycling strategies and facilities. This preliminary work aims to investigate the effect of temperature, food composition and contact times on the migration of the styrene monomer from poly(styrene) food contact materials into food simulants. Poly(styrene) cups showed a relatively low level of styrene migration with the highest being 0.110 µg/mL, whereas food containers showed a much higher level of styrene leaching with up to 6 µg/mL. This could be due to an increase in the hydrophobicity of the simulants’ characteristics from low to high fat content and the increase in the testing temperatures from 5 °C to 70 °C. ANOVA statistical analysis is used to compare the means of three or more groups of data, whereas t-test analysis is used to compare means of two groups. This was carried out on each individual sample to determine the significance of changing the temperature, simulant type, or both on the level of migration observed in the results. All significant values were tested at 95% confidence level p < 0.05, concluding that fat content and high temperatures were found to significantly increase the level of styrene migration. Nile Red staining method was used to demonstrate that particulate poly(styrene), as well as styrene monomer, migrated into tested food simulants from typical containers, which is becoming a cause for concern as evidence of microplastic ingestion increases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1136
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021


  • Food contact materials
  • Food simulants
  • Microplastics
  • Migration
  • Oligomer clusters
  • Poly(styrene) fragments
  • Styrene

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