The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Leave a Reply

55 Comments on "Toxic Food Packaging Labels"


Guest
BethTerry
1 year 6 months ago

milkmaid88  I’m not sure, but I just emailed Dennis Salazar of Globe Guard Products to see if he knows of anything.  I also just read this article and am wondering if these guys have started producing their vegetable-based adhesive yet.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100706150628.htm

Guest
milkmaid88
1 year 7 months ago

As a new business owner, I am glad you brought this to my attention as I plan to be as plastic free and toxin free as possible. I will be selling salves, soaps, and massage oils. I’m already perturbed that most lids come with plastic liners. Now this. Does anyone know if there is a DIY adhesive or if someone sells non toxic labels?

Guest

[…] of her follow-up comments) to an older article of hers that I hadn’t read before, about how labels on food packaging can clog your dishwasher and they’re often affixed with toxic adhesiv…!  […]

Guest

[…] soaking new jars separately from now on!  Don’t put labeled jars in the dishwasher because the soggy paper can clog your dishwasher.  If a label leaves behind a line of glue that just won’t come off, Goo Gone is a relatively […]

Guest
John
5 years 21 days ago

And like allot of the people here I reuse my glass containers for water on the go and dry foods storage.

Guest
John
5 years 21 days ago

I wasn’t going to read every comment so this might be redundant. Ask the company for the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). I’m pretty sure they are required by law to send it to you. If they are a decent company they will just forward it by e-mail. If they do not send a single draft e-mail to the general inbox of the FDA, EPA, OSHA, your federal and state legislative representative(s)/senator(s) and governor, local/county board of health and most important the attorney general s office of your state and the state (if it is in the US) of the company. Somebody(s) will respond. The FDA does regulate these adhesives for product labeling (but not the ink). The trouble is allot of regulation and law is only as good as the people willing to adhere to it. Since the FDA or other agency cannot be constantly looking over everyone’s shoulder all the time nor should they (and they’re way to busy with trying to keep me from getting any raw kombucha, (<;{ ). It's ashame but this is the society/culture we have again now. I say now because the things I see and read are reminiscent of the things from history class… Types of behavior and events from the dawn of the industrial age 100 to 150 years ago ( europes started about 20 or so years prior to North America). I just wonder how long it will continue and how bad it will get. Sad but true.

As far as the salt. It's okay. As long as it's real salt. Like from the sea or rock. not the kiln blasted, molecular rearranged stuff you get as generic table salt now. Night

Guest

[…] without the adhesives and the Sharpie fumes.  (Why am I concerned about the adhesives?  See this post at Fake Plastic Fish.)   I cut a circle of cardstock the same size as the lid.  That gave me lots […]

Guest
Rebecca The Greeniac
5 years 1 month ago

OK… and another thought. I’m not gonna put any more paper labels into my compost pile! Good GAWD… it’s like we live in a toxic soup…

And… as to whether it’s better to use the dishwasher or wash by hand… I’ve read the TreeHugger article and I still think washing by hand is a much better deal. Here’s why. The comparison assumes that you don’t pre-rinse before using the dishwasher, and that you use the economy settings (ie shortest wash without extra heating to the water). OK… I don’t know about any of you, but washing the dishes that way in our house just means that we have to wash them over again by hand. I suppose if you dirtied enough dishes to wash them before the food became petrified to the plates then maybe…

Plus, the cost in terms of carbon is not so much water itself, it’s HOT water. When your dishwasher runs it uses straight hot water, but when you do the dishes by hand, you probably use warm water not hot. So, the comparison really should be how much hot water each method uses, not total water. Plus, when you do the dishes by hand, you can use the same water to wash the pots & pans and clean up the counters etc… but if you’re using the dishwasher, this is all extra water.

So if you do a REAL apples to apples comparison, hand washing comes out on top easily. Beware the industry-sponsored study…

Guest
Rebecca The Greeniac
5 years 1 month ago

Holy Moly! I’m so glad I’m not the only person with a revolting dishwasher:

I thought it was just because I hadn’t used it for a month or so, but I’ll bet there’s a disgusting and toxic mass in the filter. I think I know what’s next on my list…

Guest
Susie
5 years 1 month ago

My boyfriend just showed me your blog, and we’ve been reading it through because we’re trying to live a bit more green-ly at the moment – not eating too much meat, walking/cycling not driving, recycling everything possible, and, yes, trying not to use too much disposable plastic. And I think that what you’re trying to do is admirable – a bit mad and not something I’d do myself, but admirable none the less!

However, if you’re really worried about the environment, then how come you still use a dishwasher? Which uses a lot more electricity than if you just washed and dried your dishes yourself? And unless you can guarantee that your electricity is all from renewable sources, which very few people can, then surely using excess electricity is just as harmful to the environment as using disposable plastics?

Guest
Alana
5 years 1 month ago

Ken – You say you hardly ever treat anybody for cancer from “mystery toxins”. This would imply that you know the cause of cancer in almost every case you have treated. Perhaps you are better than the average MD, but my understanding of cancer is that we very often do not know the cause, nor do we know why cancer rates are skyrocketing today. Once “mystery toxins” have been shown to cause feminization in wildlife, birth defects, and, big surprise, cancer. There is no reason to trust that these new, unstudied toxins are any safer. That is the whole point of this blog and plastic avoidance. Plastics like PVC and polycarbonates containing BPA have already been shown to be harmful. We believe “in small doses, its probably no big deal”, however, we often don’t realize how many times in a day we are exposed to these things, and we don’t realize how much of this going into the waste stream and accumulating in the environment and in our wildlife.

Finally, this blog is not about salt, but I maintain that salt is absolutely not a toxin. It is, in fact, essential for life, and calling it a toxin is simply erroneous. I may have been mistaken about the heart and stroke foundation, etc (thought I had read that somewhere, sorry), but there is science to show that a healthy person can handle salt just fine.:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080515171020.htm

http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/medicine_health/blood_sodium_level_affect_blood_pressure_120593.html

So far no studies saying we can handle adhesives just fine, though. I’ll keep my eye out.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

since I started saving jars I’ve soaked them in water to remove the labels, I use a (plastic) scraper to remove it in one piece and scrub off the remaining glue before putting it in the dishwasher. I’ve wondered about the adhesive and whether it’s petroleum based or not, it’s frustrating that there really is no way to know. I’ve thrown several food labels into the paper recycling and I wonder if that’s something I shouldn’t do, but I’m sure there’s a lot of glue that ends up in the paper recycling (like the binding on books) and I can only hope that it gets washed off in the recycling process.

I’ve noticed that there are two distinctly different types of adhesives used. one that covers the entire label and loosens easily with water and is easily scrubbed off, and another that is only applied to the edges of the label (the kind that goes around the entire jar or bottle) and it is very sticky and best loosened with heat (a hair dryer works well). I have a lot of trouble removing the second type of glue from jars, even with a razor scraper. I could easily use a petroleum based oil to remove it (GooGone works wonders but mineral oil doesn’t do the trick), but I’d like to find a non-petroleum alternative. I haven’t yet tried using olive oil, so I hope it can do the job.

Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Try scoring the label and then smearing and rubbing in peanut butter. Use your hands to do it, it’s fun. Let it sit overnight. The label will come right off. This is good for getting sticky stuff off just about anything, including my cat who likes to get pine sap all over herself.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

[…] Fake Plastic Fish has a warning about reusing jars. […]

Guest
will
5 years 1 month ago

passing on a good label remover, sans elbow grease:
olive oil.

rough up the label as best you can, usually pealing it off does this for me. saturate. wait. scrub off. add oil if necessary.

Guest
Johns Blog | Blog | Toxic Glue in Your Food - What You Should Know About Food Packaging Labels
5 years 1 month ago

[…] of her most recent finds came from a study showing that chemicals from adhesive labels on food packaging can leach through […]

Guest
Jennifer
5 years 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing. I thought putting labels into the dishwasher might cause a disaster. I usually recycle the glass jars because we have too many already. We re use them over and over again so there is no more cabinet space to keep any more!
We do grow a lot of our own produce and try to buy things with the least amount of plastic. I like your blog and look forward to reading more!

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Hi,
I just found this site, and really happy that many people think of the label and adhesive and what damage it does. I have a small business in LA and we package sorbet in glass b/c of the toxicity of plastic and we don’t use the uber super slick labels b/c of the adhesive. When we push label companies about adhesives we get totally shut down, b/c we are a small company and also the industry doesn’t treat adhesives as toxic. It’s been really frustrating. Our labels always have a “homemade” look to them and smear much easily compared to all others.

Guest
Jon
5 years 1 month ago

I bet the new nut driver has a plastic handle.

Guest
Jo
5 years 1 month ago

Oh wow! I ‘m so glad you posted this study and made me aware of it. I have a chemistry degree and even I couldn’t take in all of the article. Just the abstract was a nice brain workout. I am really glad that I try to avoid packaged foods as much as possible. Great post!

Guest
Tess
5 years 1 month ago

That is SO interesting and horrendous. Never occurred to me either. And I’m also one for sticking my bottles in the dishwasher with their labels.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Oh, the nasty ass smell. I know it well. Fortunately, we learned pretty quickly that jar labels and dishwasher don’t mix. We soak the jars, then scrape them with one of those ceramic stove-top cleaners, then the sticky, pulpy, goopy mess goes in the bin. I wish I could figure out an alternative to the bin.

We keep our jars and reuse the heck out of them (like this: , or give them away on Freecycle. It amazes me how quickly people snap our jars up. Don’t they buy stuff in jars themselves? I’m sure a lot of our local Freecyclers do. If they do, why don’t they save their own jars?

Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent. What I mean to say is: thanks for the jar post, for two reasons.
1. The toxicity thing gives me yet another reason to be careful with those labels.
2. It’s nice to know someone else’s dishwasher smells too. ;)

Guest
Cindy
5 years 1 month ago

that is jars with labels!

Guest
Cindy
5 years 1 month ago

another reason for not putting jars in the dishwasher – fire. a friend put one in and it started a fire in her dishwasher (which i would think was impossible). the paper label came off and landed on the heating element and during drying caught fire. thanks for the post on the labels. another reason for me to buy more products from the bulk bins.

Guest
Nat
5 years 1 month ago

Alana, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada actually recommends a low salt diet: http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484241/k.6D9D/Healthy_living__Salt.htm. Same for the Canadian Hypertension Society.

Guest
KenS
5 years 1 month ago

Beth- I looked over my previous post and realized where some of the incredulity on your part is likely coming from. By saying “less than one in a billion”, I’m talking about risk from individual exposure events, not cumulative risk. I’m assuming that a typical person if likely to get several thousand such exposures over a lifetime. They probably still have less than a one in a thousand lifetime chance of dying from such exposures (unless they live near a Superfund cleanup site or something),but certainly those “one in a thousand” chances add up when you multiply them by a planet with several billion people on it. Again, the point isn’t to say “no risk”, it’s to say “pay more attention to the more significant risks.”

Guest
KenS
5 years 1 month ago

Alana – salt IS a toxic chemical, at least down here in the USA. Maybe Canadians have more robust kidneys than we do. I treat people every day for diseases (stroke, kidney disease, heart disease) that stem from high blood pressure, which is directly tied to salt intake. How often do I treat people for cancers from “mystery toxins”? Almost never.

Guest
KenS
5 years 1 month ago

Beth, it’s not a knowledge of those particular chemicals, but more a knowledge of just how many fairly potent carcinogens a typical human gets exposed to in a typical day, and mentally “doing the math” that tells me how very few of those molecules are going to be able to swim through a plastic container and leach into your food and comparing those two amounts.

Anybody who eats grilled meat (particularly something like blackened fish) is just soaking up the nitrosamines, for instance. Even healthful foods like broccoli (and other foods generally known to help prevent cancer) have known carcinogens in them. I use coal tar shampoo on a near daily basis–and coal tar was the first known carcinogen. (It caused scrotal cancer in adolescent boys who worked as chimney sweeps, but I digress). Anyway, the point is that carcinogens are EVERYWHERE. Even consumption of ‘normal’ foods results in the production of tons of free radicals–any single molecule of which could theoretically result in just the wrong chemical reaction to cause just the wrong change to a piece of DNA in a cell which will move that cell one step closer to turning into a nasty cancer. If you live up high in the mountains, you get significantly more radiation. If you live in a tightly-sealed house in an area with a lot of radon, you get significantly more radiation. If you get too many sunburns as a kid, you’re more prone to getting melanoma as an adult. If you don’t get enough vitamin D as an adult (i.e. through avoiding the sun too much), you’re at increased risk for breast, colon, prostate and a dozen other types of cancer (including, ironically enough, melanoma).

It’s not that I’m advocating throwing all caution to the wind and ignoring all risks (especially cigarette smoking, which has given you a permanent increased lifetime risk of getting oral, lung, stomach, pancreatic, laryngeal, bladder, kidney and esophageal cancers, for instance–not to mention leukemia), it’s just that I’m suggesting putting those risks into perspective and understanding what’s actually dangerous and what’s really WAAAAY down there in the risk list.

If you don’t want to die from cancer, then:
1. don’t smoke
2. choose the right parents
3. get a radon detector if you live in certain parts of the country
4. aim for a serum 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D level of at least 50, preferably 70;
5. start getting colonoscopies every 10 years starting at age 50 (earlier or more often if there’s a family history or other risk factors),
6. get your pap smear every 2 years (data is less clear about mammograms)
7. try not to weigh too much (or too little),
8. avoid barbecued anything/everything
9. eat a high-fiber diet
10. See a doctor EARLY (i.e. within a few weeks) about suspicious health problems
11. Don’t let that doctor give you too many CT scans while looking for cancers, and finally:

12. *** Try not to Stress Out too much if you can help it! ***

Guest
Alana
5 years 1 month ago

Ken – I must disagree that salt is more harmful to our bodies than toxic chemicals. We are equipped to handle excess salt with these things called our kidneys. (As an aside, here in Canada, almost all the major organizations concerned with cardiovascular health (Heart and Stroke foundation, Canadian Hypertension Society, etc) have denounced the low sodium diet as helpful to health and longevity.) However, nobody has recommendations yet regarding these foreign substances in our bodies, and the preliminary data Beth is talking about here does not look good. We have absolutely no idea what the NNH is, and so far, our track record with supposedly safe new chemicals has not been good (DDT, PVC, flame retardants, etc etc etc). I think it is better to err on the side of caution until we actually know what the risks are and have numbers like the NNH.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Thats one reason I keep a razor blade scraper by the kitchen sink. That and keep paper out of the filter.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Ken, not only the issues that Beth mentioned, but factor in the addition of these toxins to our environment on a continuing bases. Plus the labels themselves being eaten by animals, etc. We eat the food that absorbes these toxins and we keep manufacturing more. How long do we need to pee in our own bathtub before we decide that this isn’t really what we want to do?

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I stumbled on it right before earth day when I was writing my rant for my post. though I’ve been a long time refuser of plastic bags and over packaging and always buy product in glass when available, you have inspired me to become even more plastic free. thanks for the ideas and alternatives.

Guest
rachel
5 years 1 month ago

Ok, now I’m going to stop putting these labels that come off bottles into the compost =/

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Wow!

I use 100% recycled paper labels, but I am going to follow up with the manufacturer about the adhesive. I hand wash the labels off dozens of bottles a week from various sources so these can be reused in my clinic.

Is there no bottom to this?

Guest
twyla
5 years 1 month ago

ugh. my dishwasher smells like a– all the time and I can’t figure it out. My fitler screen is easily accessible and rinsed, and while its sometimes that, its not always that. oh well. love the precautionary principal tho. not sure why i’ve never heard o it before.

Guest
greg
5 years 1 month ago

Thank you for the info, I never thought of another source of pollution, it’s a wonder we are alive!! Just today I put a big pickle jar in the dish washer that I brought home from work. I made solar ice tea so I won’t have to buy it in plastic bottles anymore. It came out really good, and what a inexpensive way to make ice tea. Any way the pickle label came off in the dishwasher, I won’t do that again. Thanks Beth you really do make a difference. g

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Would a socket wrench set work to get on that nut?

Isn’t the ink/paint on most of the labels may be lead based as well. Having read an article, which I have forgotten the Title, concerning lead in my parrot’s diet I learned that most plastic bags for bread and such are painted with lead paint. If you reuse bags and the color letters and such start to flake off, it’s lead based. Supposedly, I’m not completely remembering all the details.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

*sigh* can’t any of this just be easy

Guest
Barbara Kossy
5 years 1 month ago

Thanks for all this information. A similar thing happened to me. However, soaking will not remove most labels, since the glue is not water soluble. Also, many labels these days are plastic. And, I do think that most recycling programs now accept bottles with labels. They get burned off as the glass is re-melted, I expect. And can you imagine getting the labels off of all the beer and wine bottles in the world?
Check with your local recycling agency about the labels.
My first job in California was as a cashier at a vegetable market. It’s absolutely possible to memorize the prices on fruits and vegetables. Why why why must they put those nasty little labels on the food we eat?

Guest
KenS
5 years 1 month ago

Ugh. Must learn to proofread my comments before I post them, particularly when there’s no ‘edit’ or ‘delete’ buttons. Sigh.

Guest
KenS
5 years 1 month ago

There’s a concept we use in medicine a lot called the NNT, or “Number Needed to Treat”. The general idea is that when we give people medicines (say, a statin), we might have to treat a whole lot of people (say, over 200) in order to prevent one bad outcome (say, a heart attack). Conversely, we sometimes find that the side effects are so onerous for some medicines that we’re instead talking about the NNH, or “Number Needed to Harm”, which is how many people you need to give the medicine to in order to cause more bad outcome than would have occurred otherwise.

In the case of these labels, just because the glue is theoretically toxic really doesn’t say much by itself–we need an idea of the NNH. My suspicion for the case of toxic glue on labels on plastic containers is that the NNH is likely somewhere well north of a billion, meaning that you’d have to expose more than a billion people to a food product that came in a plastic container that had one of these sorts of labels on it versus, say, a food product that came in an identical plastic container that didn’t have a toxic label on it before you’d end up with one extra case of leukemia or colon cancer or something. If I’m anywhere near right, then that means that the average food that’s contained inside of the container is FAR scarier than anything on the outside–particularly if that food has added any salt added to it.

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Thank you for this update! Now I can sleep at night knowing that you fixed your dishwasher. :) Well, not really since now I know I have a glue problem – boo.

Some people use petroleum when growing their own vegetables. I used a gas powered rototiller to till my in laws huge vegetable garden for them. It would have taken weeks to break up the soil without it. There really isn’t any way to get around using it without giving up all of life’s conveniences is there?

Guest
autumn
5 years 1 month ago

ugh. yet one more reason not to buy anything with a label

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Ugh. And double ugh, because I try to opt for foods in non-plastic packaging, and it sounds like they’re the ones most likely to have these labels. I suppose it’s just another good reason to avoid pre-packaged foods. :(

Guest
badkaren
5 years 1 month ago

nice post. non-water-soluble label adhesives, especially glass jars, has been a real pet peeve of mine for a long time as most recycling programs specify that you must remove all labels. i still can not understand why a) non-water-soluble glue must be used or b) why they must put adhesive on the entire label.

i thoroughly enjoy a certain brand of organic prosecco which comes in a bottle with a hinged cap (like Grosch beer). these bottles are sooo useful after i’ve enjoyed the delicious nectar within, but what really pees me off is that they switched to a non-water-soluble adhesive on their labels. the labels used to float off magically after a quick soak in some old dishwater but now, i have to coat them in vegetable oil for a day or so before they will peel off and then i have to scour them with hot, hot soap & water to remove the residue.

i really don’t know what the advantage is to the manufacturer here. is there some epidemic of product becoming immersed in water and labels being lost rendering the product unsaleable? or is it just that this gunk is really that much cheaper??

Guest
Myra Henderson
5 years 1 month ago

Thanks for the update :) It’s gross that the glue on the labels is toxic. I’m glad you found out what the problem was. What is wrong with humans that we have no regard for creating and doing things to our environment (our home) that is killing us. I don’t understand.

Guest
Jane
5 years 1 month ago

Speaking of labels, I’d love to hear some details about these plastic ‘tagless’ clothing labels that are all over. It’s tough to find underclothes without them these days!

Guest
Brande
5 years 1 month ago

Insanity! And here I was thinking it would just be a dead rodent or something. This is far grosser. o_O

Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Hi Beth – Thanks for this – because we do exactly the same thing. We also shove glass jars with the labels on into our dishwasher for cleaning. Not any more!

I think I’ll be getting some steel wool pads to scrub the labels off with in the sink, with some soap. And wear rubber gloves when I do it.

And there are some laws we seriously need to change!

Guest
Rita Vail
5 years 1 month ago

It has lately been concerning me that the organic fruit I buy has little labels stuck to it. I remove them right away, but I know it is one more little source of toxins.Sometimes I just I wish I could run away from the world.

Thank you for your excellent blog. Do you know about Debra Lynn Dadd? She is another crusader for those of us who are chemically sensitive – which actually includes everyone, whether you have noticed it yet or not. Check her out. She is awesome.
Rita

Guest
shanon
5 years 1 month ago

Whoa! Very interesting and informative. Just yesterday I was wondering about what the deal with your dishwasher was, I thought maybe I had missed your update on facebook. I find this extra interesting because my brother-in-law used to be the one who made the machines that apply that adhesive to glue the labels on jars, glue boxes closed (like for mac ‘n’ cheese, where that one piece of macaroni is always stuck to the bottom of the box!), cereal boxes, etc. I too don’t always remove labels before putting jars in the dishwasher, but I certainly will be sure to now!

Thank you Beth for all the information :)

Guest
Maddie
5 years 1 month ago

Ugh, thanks for the post. I have placed glass jars with the labels still affixed in my dishwasher. Now I know what not to do.