Monday 14 October 2002
Aluminium can be present naturally in food and it is sometimes added during processing. But aluminium can also pass into food from cookware and packaging.
Aluminium can be present naturally in food because plants can take up aluminium from the soil and from water. Unprocessed foods can contain between 0.1 to 20 milligrams of aluminium per kilogram of food.
Aluminium may also be added to food when some aluminium-containing food additives are quite legitimately used in foods such as bakery products. It may migrate to food from aluminium cookware and packaging materials, such as aluminium foil and cartons.
Tea can contain high levels of aluminium. Some plants, such as tea and some herbs and leafy vegetables, can build up high levels of aluminium naturally. Bread and bakery products can also contain relatively high levels of aluminium because additives containing aluminium are added during processing.
It’s best not to use aluminium products to cook or store foods that are highly acidic, such as:
- many soft fruits
This is because these sorts of food can acquire an aluminium taint that can affect their taste, especially if foods are stored in aluminium containers for long periods of time.
One study found that around 20% of aluminium in the diet came from the use of aluminium cookware and foil, but other studies have shown that the use of aluminium cookware contributes little to our dietary intakes of aluminium.
Otherwise, aluminium is highly resistant to corrosion caused by different foods. Cooking foods in aluminium containers increases the aluminium content in the food by less than 1 milligram per kilogram of food for about half of the foods that have already been studied, and less than 10 milligrams per kilogram for 85% of those foods.
No. There has been a lot of research into this area during the past 40 years. In 1997, the World Health Organization said that they had found no evidence that aluminium posed a health risk to healthy people who were not exposed to aluminium through their jobs and there was no evidence that aluminium was a primary cause of Alzheimer's disease.
Yes. The new European Framework Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 on Materials and Articles Intended to come into Contact with Foodstuffs lays down the general safety requirements that apply to metals and alloys. These regulations to protect public health require that materials such as aluminium be manufactured to prevent them from affecting the food or making it harmful. The regulations also ensure that metals like aluminium do not change the nature, substance or quality of the food.
Food Contact Materials Unit
Food Standards Agency
London WC2B 6NH
Tel: 020 7276 8399
Fax: 020 7276 8514