Researchers in the United States have developed a chemical derived from sugar with the potential to replace bisphenol A (BPA) in a number of products, including the lining of food cans.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) said Professor Michael Jaffe had received a US patent for an epoxy resin based on isosorbide diglycidyl ether that could make consumer products safer.
“The patent will enable us to create a family of isosorbide-based epoxy resins that have the potential to replace bisphenol A in a number of products including food can linings”, Jaffe told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Any sugar residue
He said that given the right level of support by the food packaging industry, it was possible that the product could be brought to market within two years.
Working in partnership with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), the professor said he had used corn starch as the raw material for the resin - as the ease of supply in the US meant it was cost effective. But in theory any sugar residue, whether derived from starch or cellulose, could be utilised, he added. Both components of the epoxy—the resin and the hardener—are from water-soluble, plant-derived chemistries. The epoxy is cured by baking at an elevated temperature.
“Isosorbide has history of human ingestion because of use in pharmaceutical industry and has GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status in these applications,” said Jaffe. “Sugar-based chemicals are attractive because they are generally regarded as safe, are a renewable resource and can be made readily available at competitive pricing.”
The breakthrough comes in the wake of the US Food and Drug Administration’s update on BPA in January in which it highlighted the need to develop alternatives to the chemical for food can linings and polycarbonate baby bottles. Mounting concern among consumers and politicians that the substance could be harmful means the plastic industry is believed to have made the search for BPA substitutes a priority.
"Exposure to bisphenol A has been linked to health problems and we feel confident that this is a safe alternative," said Rodney Williamson, ICPB director of research and development.
Jaffe said the team was looking to commercialise this product but the sector in which this first occurred would be a “function of the market place”.
“We need to work with an appropriate food packaging related company and those that could manufacture the epoxy resin to validate and scale up output of the product," he said."It must be tuned and tailored to meet food packaging needs, as it hasn’t yet been tested as a food can liner.”
NJIT said the epoxy product was the first in a series of patents filed in partnership with the ICPB to develop applications and markets for sugar-based chemistry.