ARCHIVED - 2010-2011 Antimony in Juice and Bottled Water

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The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As a part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

The main objective of the antimony in juice and bottled water targeted survey was to generate baseline surveillance data on the levels of antimony in domestic and imported juice and bottled water available on the Canadian retail market.

Antimony is a naturally occurring metal and its levels in the environment have risen due to increased industrial uses. Since antimony is not known to fulfill a biological role in the human body, there is growing concern about its effects on humans. Currently, no Canadian regulations exist for antimony in food although there is a Canadian drinking water quality guideline for antimony of 0.006 parts per million (ppm). Antimony trioxide, used in the manufacturing of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, is a suspected human carcinogen. Previous studies have reported the leaching of antimony from packaging, particularly PET, into the food or beverage product.

In total, 359 samples (185 juices and 174 bottled waters) were collected from Canadian retail stores and analyzed for antimony. Eight of the 185 juice samples had detectable levels of antimony ranging from 0.0038 to 0.0572 ppm. Only one of the 174 bottled water samples had a detectable level of antimony at 0.0031 ppm. Given the documented leaching of antimony from PET plastic packaging materials in particular, the type of packaging (i.e., glass, plastic, metal can, Tetra Pak and cardboard (frozen)) was recorded for all samples. Detectable levels of antimony were found in juice samples packaged in glass, metal can, Tetra Pak and cardboard, while the bottled water sample was in plastic. This survey cannot distinguish between antimony originating from natural sources, environmental contamination and/or leaching from packaging materials.

All data generated were shared with Health Canada for use in performing human health risk assessments. The levels found were not considered to pose a concern to human health. Appropriate follow-up actions were initiated that reflected the magnitude of the health concern.

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