Is it healthy to wrap food in a newspaper?

Aluminum foil: health hazard?

Aluminum and its compounds are a natural component in many foods - for example in drinking water, spices, black tea, rocket or lye biscuits. In addition, aluminum also gets into food through consumer goods such as aluminum foil or aluminum tableware. Medicines and cosmetic products such as toothpastes with a whitening effect and sunscreen can also represent a source of absorption for humans.

In order to minimize your body's exposure to aluminum, it is less about avoiding foods with a natural content of aluminum and more about avoiding additional intake. This is done, for example, using aluminum-containing food contact materials such as aluminum foil or uncoated menu trays made of aluminum on food.

Sour and sour things do not belong in aluminum foil

If salt or acid, for example from lemon or tomato paste, comes into contact with aluminum foil, aluminum will dissolve from the foil. The result: Small components of the metal pass into the food packaged in them and are eaten with them - health risks cannot be ruled out.

Aluminum can also migrate into food if you cover salty and acidic foods on plates or in metal bowls with aluminum foil. Then the film can dissolve through chemical reactions.
Moist, acidic or salty foods should therefore not come into contact with aluminum foil for a long time. Aluminum foils and containers for food must therefore bear a note for safe and proper use. This must not downplay the health risks.

Health hazards not excluded

Aluminum ingested through food is not considered to be acutely harmful, as 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, but 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, 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. The European Food Safety Authority has one milligram of aluminum per kilogram of body weight set as the maximum tolerable intake per week.

Misleading warning notice

The EU Ordinance on Commodities prescribes instructions for "safe and appropriate use" for objects that can come into contact with food. For aluminum foils, this notice is 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." This also applies to grill trays or disposable trays made of aluminum that are not covered with a protective layer.

Adding the addition "Aluminum components released to food are not harmful to health" is not permitted for aluminum foil according to a resolution of the Working Group of Food Chemistry Experts (ALS).

The consumer advice centers have also found that the mandatory information is often small and inconspicuous. This means that buyers cannot sufficiently perceive and observe these important information. In addition, the retail trade unfortunately still offers kitchen-ready products such as frozen fish with a mixture of spices for cooking in an aluminum tray. The legislature should prevent that.

Aluminum foil: tips for kitchen practice

  • Do not use aluminum foil to cover moist, acidic or high-salty foods on metal serving plates or bowls.
  • Do not store foods, especially those containing acid or salty, wrapped in aluminum foil for long periods of time.
  • Use aluminum foil as rarely as possible for cooking food.
  • Grill food in aluminum grill trays only briefly and only then add salt and seasoning. Reusable alternatives made of stainless steel are better.
  • In the case of objects that are intended for food, always observe the instructions for safe and appropriate use.
  • Eat meals made from uncoated aluminum trays as rarely as possible.
  • Packaging materials made of aluminum such as coffee capsules, yoghurt cup lids and beverage cans are generally harmless in terms of health. They are specially coated so that the aluminum does not come into contact with the food.

This content was created by the consumer centers Hessen and Schleswig-Holstein for the network of consumer centers in Germany.