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 at very low temperature and offer strong tear resistance with the help of plasticisers (US: plasticizers). 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.
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.
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.
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.
PVC cling film is flexible, light, cost-effective, transparent, tough and safe. It has excellent organoleptic properties (does not affect the taste of the packaged food) and PVC requires less fuel to manufacture and transport when compared with other packaging materials such as metal or glass, and protects against contamination by helping to prevent the spread of germs during manufacture, distribution and display, particularly in the form of cling film. This, combined with PVC’s excellent oxygen and water barrier properties, prevents unnecessary wastage as it ensures food lasts longer.