Specifics of copper and copper alloys
If materials made of copper and/or copper alloys are to be used for the processing, transport or storage of foodstuffs, the suitability of these materials for contact with the (specific) foodstuffs must be clarified with the supplier – as is also the case for other materials. Taking into account possible corrosion processes and/or the migration of metals, a classification is suitable for this purpose, according to which the areas of application of copper and copper alloys for specific foods and food compositions are defined. This should be done with the help of empirical values and the results of tests. If necessary, a case-by-case assessment should be carried out.
Like iron or zinc, copper is an essential trace element in plants and animals, is therefore a natural component of most foods and can therefore be detected in the food itself. Consequently, copper contents found in food analyses are not necessarily due to migration from the material used. Rather, it is important to estimate the respective concentration proportions (naturally occurring versus migration-related) and to ensure compliance with the migration limits.
Factsheet Food Materials
Further criteria for the selection of suitable copper materials:
In some cases, when a food comes into contact with copper or copper-containing alloys, copper components can be dissolved out of the material in question. Therefore, care should be taken that the amount of material dissolved out under certain circumstances does not exceed the technically unavoidable level and that, at the same time, the (health-related) migration values specified by the Council of Europe are not exceeded. In particular, contact with acidic foods (e.g. fruit juices, jams, salads, acidic pickled foods) can self-explanatorily increase the migration rate and therefore requires a particularly intensive and targeted assessment. Nevertheless, many copper materials are in principle suitable for use in the food sector. There is a wealth of past and present experience regarding the contact of food with copper materials.
Our teamThe experts at the Kupferinstitut have many years of experience in all questions concerning the range of applications of copper materials. They offer solutions to problems in materials science as well as to aspects of further processing, environmental and health-related issues.
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