What are the products of aluminum

Aluminum in food

For a long time aluminum was considered harmless - it is now known that, under certain circumstances, aluminum ions can dissolve and migrate into food. Since health risks are discussed, intake should be kept as low as possible.

Recording sources

As the third most common element in the earth's crust, aluminum enters drinking water naturally. Although it is mostly in a bound form in nature, it is released by acid rain or industrial influences and thus finds its way into the environment and food.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that most natural foods contain less than 5 milligrams of aluminum per kilogram of food. Tea leaves, spices, mussels, cereals and some vegetables can have higher contents.

The use of food additives containing aluminum was significantly restricted by an EU regulation from 2012 for reasons of consumer protection. Aluminum (E173) as such, as a silvery shimmering food coloring, may only be used for coatings on sugar confectionery for the decoration of cakes and fine baked goods. In the case of prepackaged foods, the substance must be specified as "Color E173" or "Aluminum color" in the list of ingredients.

Other sources of aluminum are vaccines, pharmaceuticals, lipsticks, toothpastes, aluminum-containing antiperspirants and food contact items made of aluminum such as cookware, grill trays, drinking bottles, baking trays or aluminum foil.

The aluminum uptake from food packaging in retail plays a subordinate role, since the aluminum barrier layer contained in beverage cans and cartons, yoghurt lids, sachet soups, coffee packaging, coffee capsules and trays for finished products is usually separated from the contents by a plastic layer.

For metallic objects there is a resolution of the Council of Europe which provides for a release limit value of 5 milligrams per kilogram of food for aluminum. For the member states of the Council, however, resolutions are only of a recommendatory nature and are not binding legal limit values.

Health risks

Aluminum ingested through food is not considered to be acutely harmful, its toxicity is classified as low. However, the metal can accumulate in the body. A large part of the aluminum ingested is excreted via the kidneys in healthy people; However, aluminum that is not excreted can accumulate in the course of life, especially in the lungs and the skeletal system. This increases the risk of nerve and kidney diseases. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) also cites effects on fertility and effects on bone development.

In addition, aluminum disrupts the balance of trace elements such as magnesium and iron in the body. It takes their position in enzymes, for example, and can thus trigger a disruption in signal transmission.

In addition, some scientists suspect that aluminum can promote dementia and other health problems such as breast cancer. However, this has not been properly proven.

As a precaution, the uptake of aluminum should be as low as possible. EFSA has 1 milligram of aluminum per kilogram of body weight is defined as the maximum tolerable intake per week.

According to estimates, adults ingest on average between 0.2 and 1.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Aluminum intake should be minimized by avoiding some sources and properly handling aluminum household items. Aluminum foil or uncoated bowls made of aluminum should not come into contact with salty or sour food for a long time. A corresponding usage note is also required by law.

Tips for dealing with the household

The EU Ordinance on Commodities prescribes instructions for "safe and appropriate use" for items that can come into contact with food. This notice reads at Aluminum foils usually as follows or similar: "Do not use aluminum foil to cover moist, acidic or salty foods on serving plates or metal bowls. Aluminum foils must not come into contact with acidic or salty foods. However, aluminum components released into food are not harmful". The last, belittling addition, however, made the preceding warning ad absurdum.

According to a decision by the working group of food chemical experts of the federal states and the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (ALS), this addition is no longer permitted.

The consumer advice center welcomes the decision of the ALS expert committee and expects the food control to punish labels with a belittling last sentence.

Internet shops that offer aluminum foil have already been successfully warned by the consumer advice centers for incorrect information. Manufacturers should design their packaging as quickly as possible so that the safety instructions on the aluminum foil catch the eye at first glance.

This also applies toGrill trays or disposable trays made of aluminumwhose safety instructions are rarely found. Ready-to-cook products such as frozen fish in a spice mix for cooking in an aluminum tray are still offered in retail outlets. Ready meals are also available in aluminum trays, often for direct heating. Although these dishes are heavily salted and often contain acidic ingredients such as tomato paste, there is seldom any indication of safe and proper use on the products. Buyers cannot tell whether aluminum utensils for kitchen use are coated (and therefore safer) or uncoated.

  • Aluminum foil: Due to strongly acidic and salty foods or contact with other metals, aluminum can detach from the foil and migrate into the food. Sour things like apple pieces, lemons, tomatoes, pickles and salty things like feta, salted herring, sausage and ham do not belong in aluminum foil - neither for storage nor for preparation.
  • Do not cover metal serving plates, saucepans and uncoated baking trays with aluminum foil.
  • Do not prepare sour or salty food in aluminum cookware. At least use baking paper for aluminum trays in the oven.
  • In pretzels, high aluminum contents are repeatedly found, due to the lye and subsequent baking on aluminum trays. Therefore, there is a recommendation for bakers to avoid using aluminum sheets. If you are unsure, ask at the bakery.
  • Grilling on aluminum dishes is justifiable in order to prevent fat from dripping into the embers and carcinogenic substances being produced when burned. Avoid acidic marinades and, if possible, only season the meat after grilling.
  • Avoiding ready meals in aluminum trays and meals from aluminum menu trays (e.g. meals on wheels), unless the manufacturer indicates a coating. The latest studies by the BfR show that the preparation and keeping of acidic and salty foods in uncoated aluminum meal trays release a lot of aluminum. With a daily consumption of 200 grams of acidic food from uncoated aluminum trays, an adult would take in an additional 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight in one week.
  • Do not clean aluminum espresso makers in the dishwasher. When the cookware is used for the first time, a protective layer forms on the inside, which reduces aluminum transitions. However, this layer is removed when washing in the machine.


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