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Plastic food packaging film, commonly known as cling film, has literally revolutionised the food industry thanks to its protective and preserving qualities. Cling films are thin PVC films, which stay flexible and tear resistant with the help of plasticisers. At the same time, it is now regarded as an essential and cost-effective tool for food presentation.
During the thirty or so years that plasticised PVC food packaging films have been available, they have become a major contributor to food safety, protecting meat and dairy products in particular from the micro-organisms that breed quickly when food is left uncovered.
Its versatility has also made cling film one of the most widely used materials for wrapping fresh meat in supermarkets and for food storage in catering establishments as well as at home.
The more commonly used monomeric plasticisers for food packaging PVC cling-films include di-2-ethylhexyl adipate (DEHA) and acetyltributyl citrate (ATBC). Their intrinsic properties render them more suitable than most of the more common phthalate plasticisers which are not generally used in the manufacture of food grade cling film. Other specialty plasticisers such as polymerics or cyclohexanoates can also be used in this application.
Plasticised PVC films preserve the freshness of meat as they have high oxygen and water vapour transmission. They are cost-effective, since they operate satisfactorily on high-speed packing machines, and are effective for display, because they have good clarity. Their good elastic recovery and puncture resistance make them suitable for handling, they have excellent cling properties and can be easily heat-sealed.
For catering and household uses, thinner films with less plasticiser are supplied while maintaining the same cling, clarity and strength properties.
The main factors influencing the growth of food packaging are speed and convenience. Traditional frozen products such as green vegetables and carcass meat are declining, being overtaken by added value and convenience foods such as frozen ready meals.
Despite its versatility and obvious benefits, there has been substantial speculation about the safety of cling film. However, and after having been used in the USA for more than 30 years and for about 25 years in Europe, scientific research has repeatedly shown it is perfectly safe to use.