Frequently Asked Questions - Health and Safety

Yes.  Single-use PET bottles can be refilled at home so long as they are washed thoroughly between uses.  It's a common misconception that refilling and reusing a PET bottle will somehow cause the bottle to degrade, release harmful substances or cultivate bacteria. P ET is a stable, inert material that doesn't biologically or chemically degrade with use, and is resistant to attack by micro-organisms. 

The refilling and re-use of any bottle first requires careful cleaning.  Always use soap or detergent and hand-hot water (up to 60°C/150°F).  Dry thoroughly to make sure it is sanitary and free of moisture, which can promote bacterial growth.   Consumers should avoid re-using any bottle that has been scratched inside, since bacteria can become lodged in scratches.

Yes, it is. Detailed studies have been completed that investigated the health, safety, and environmental aspects of using PET in refillable bottle systems.  Some of the countries who have approved the use of PET for refillable applications are Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and Uruguay.

Cleansing processes must be adequate to remove all bacteriological contaminants or render them inactive by sterilisation.  Procedures have been developed to clean and sterilise the containers to the same performance standards that are set for refillable glass containers.  Repeated cleaning tests with bottles of 'rough' interior wall surfaces (so that they will retain greater quantities of what has been stored into them) and contaminated with mixed spoilage yeasts compared favourably with glass packages.

A Code of Practice applies to refillable bottles that ensures maximum product safety and complete acceptance by the consumer.

The rumours circulating on the Internet that PET bottles are safe for one time only are groundless.  PET bottles do not release harmful chemicals when they are used repeatedly.

Storage of garden chemicals like weedkillers, pesticides, or fuel oils and retention of harmful contaminants during subsequent washing and cleaning processes is a potential problem as absorption could occur.

The very strict inspection procedures in washing and cleaning plants are designed to detect and eliminate any suspect bottles.  Optical detectors and sophisticated electronic 'sniffers', in addition to manual inspection, ensure that these bottles are eliminated; such devices are used before and after washing.  Contaminated bottles are not known to have passed through the extremely rigorous inspection systems.

This aspect has been researched intensively and a variety of substances likely to be incorrectly stored in bottles was studied independently in simulated real situations.  Very stringent testing showed that only small fractions of some compounds were actually absorbed.  Subsequent tests, with simulated beverages spiked with 52 chemicals passing through the visual and instrumental inspections, showed 17 of the chemicals could not be detected and those that were found were detected at levels well below those considered safe for public health concerns.

PET has been used as a packaging material for food and beverage containers for nearly 40 years without any known adverse effects. Extensive studies of PET and PET packaging have repeatedly shown it to be safe.

The metal-based catalysts used in PET manufacture are present at very low levels, typically less than 250 parts per million (ppm), and are chemically locked into the PET structure.  Repeated extraction tests with food simulants at normal use conditions show that the amount of extractables is well below any legal limits; moreover, the extractables are neither toxic nor hazardous.

PET used for food applications is in a very pure form, free from any plasticisers or added stabilisers. There are no additives of this type that could migrate into or affect the packaged foodstuff.

Small amounts of acetaldehyde are formed during thermal degradation of PET, only when the polymer is in the molten state. Acetaldehyde is a simple, naturally-occurring, organic chemical present in many ripe fruits eg apples, grapes, and citrus fruits (up to 230 ppm).  It is produced during the fermentation of sugar to alcohol, and is a natural constituent of butter, olives, frozen vegetables, and cheese. It forms in wine and other alcoholic beverages after exposure to air (up to 140 ppm).  It even occurs as an intermediate in the metabolism of sugars in the body and hence can be found in human blood.  Acetaldehyde is listed as an approved food additive and is used to enhance citrus flavours, helping to create natural, fruity tastes and fragrances.  As a flavour ingredient, it can be found in ice creams, sweets, baked goods, chocolates, rum, and wine. Since it is present naturally in numerous foodstuffs at higher levels than in PET, acetaldehyde from PET will have a significantly lower effect on humans than that from natural sources.The safety of acetaldehyde is also demonstrated by the fact that it is an accepted raw material for the manufacture of food contact plastics. It is important that manufacturers and converters control the level of acetaldehyde in PET because, in its pure state, it has a flavour and a sharp penetrating aroma, therefore it has the ability to change the taste and flavour of foods packaged in PET, particularly mineral water.   Typical concentrations of acetaldehyde in PET containers used for beverage packaging are less than 10 ppm and probably closer to 4- 5 ppm.    

Despite many unfounded rumours circulating on the Internet, no harmful chemical has been detected in measurable amounts from PET under any conditions of use.  This has been verified by all the European and national authorities that have authorised the use of PET for food packaging.

PET is a very inert material and does not react with any known food products.  It is for this reason that PET is a good choice for all kinds of food packaging.

No.  PET does not contain any BPA.  Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a compound used to make polycarbonate, a different type of plastic that's found in some baby bottles, the lining of metal cans, and reusable sports bottles.  PET does not contain BPA and it is never intentionally added.  Some legislators and consumer groups are concerned there might be a possible connection between BPA in polycarbonate and possible effects on children  although BPA has been extensively studied and ruled safe by many international health authorities.  These concerns have caused  confusion about which plastics contain BPA,  PET does not contain any BPA.

No. PET does not contain dioxins, nor can it produce dioxins, and no dioxins are created in the manufacturing of PET.  Dioxins can't be created without the presence of chlorine, and PET does not contain chlorine.  Dioxins are a group of compounds sometimes formed by high-temperature combustion (over 400°C) and certain types of industrial processes involving chlorine.  Consequently, dioxins can't be produced when a PET container is heated or microwaved or frozen (all common urban myths).

PET contains no phthalates.  Phthalates are low molecular weight monoesters made from ortho-phthalic acid. By comparison, PET is high molecular weight polyester made from tere-phthalic acid and these forms are chemically very different.  Phthalates (ie phthalate ester plasticizers) are not used in the manufacture of PET, and PET itself is not a phthalate.  Plasticizer phthalates are sometimes used to soften other types of plastic, but they are not used in PET.   Some consumers may have incorrectly assumed that PET is a phthalate because PET's chemical name is polyethylene terephthalate.

No. PET contains no known endocrine disruptors, and there is no credible scientific data to suggest that PET produces oestrogen or endocrine modulating activity. Studies that exposed both male and female laboratory animals to terephthalates during all phases of the reproductive cycle found no reproductive or developmental effects in either the test animals or their offspring.

There is no reason for concern. No studies have found any toxic amounts of antimony in PET-bottled water or containers. Unfortunately, there has been some consumer misunderstanding of studies showing higher-than-normal levels of antimony when water bottled in PET was exposed to extreme heat (80°C/190°F) for extended periods of time. Even then, the highest measured levels paralleled established safe levels for antimony in drinking water. In short, the very small amounts of antimony that might be found in PET-bottled water are of no concern and do not pose any health risk.