Food and Drug Administration: Safety of Polystyrene
Polystyrene is a kind of plastic used to make
foodservice packaging, such as hot and cold drink
cups, as well as many other consumer goods. It
frequently is used in applications where hygiene is
important. Polystyrene is made by stringing together
(polymerizing) styrene, a substance that also occurs
naturally in foods such as strawberries, cinnamon,
coffee and beef.
FDA Determines Polystyrene Is Safe for Use in Food
In the U.S., the federal Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly regulates all
food packaging materials – including polystyrene.
All food packaging – glass, aluminum, paper and
plastics (such as polystyrene) – contains substances
that can "migrate" in very tiny amounts to foods or
beverages. That’s one of the reasons why FDA
regulates food packaging in the first place – to be
confident that the amount of substances that might
actually migrate is safe.
For every material used in food contact, there must
be sufficient scientific information to demonstrate
that its use is safe. FDA’s safety evaluations focus
on three factors:
the materials/s used in the packaging,
cumulative exposure to substances that may migrate
into foods and beverages, and
the safe levels of that exposure.
Tiny amounts of styrene may remain in polystyrene
following manufacture, so FDA has evaluated both the
safety of the food contact material itself
(polystyrene) and the safety of the substance that
may migrate (styrene). The result of these
evaluations: FDA for decades has determined that
polystyrene is safe for use in contact with food.
In addition, FDA has approved styrene as a food
additive – it can be added in small amounts to baked
goods, frozen dairy products, candy, gelatins,
puddings and other food.
In 2013, the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group
provided updated styrene migration data to FDA. The
data show that current exposures to styrene from the
use of polystyrene food contact products remain
extremely low, with the estimated daily intake
calculated at 6.6 micrograms per person per day.
This is more than 10,000 times below the safety
limit set by FDA (the FDA’s acceptable daily intake
value of styrene is calculated to be 90,000
per person per day).