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FSA: ‘Don’t panic’ over recycled cartons

FSA: ‘Don’t panic’ over recycled cartons

FSA: ‘Don’t panic’ over recycled cartons

The Food Standards Agency’s chief scientist has warned people not to “panic” over concerns about food being contaminated by recycled cardboard packaging.


Andrew Wadge was responding to a Swiss study which found that mineral oils in recycled cardboard used in food packaging can leach into food.

A total of 119 samples of dry food from the German market were checked for migration of mineral oil. The researchers found about a quarter of the migrating mineral oil was from printing ink used to decorate boxes.

Writing on his blog, Wadge said “the evidence available so far doesn’t demonstrate that there is a food safety risk and the researchers in Switzerland were unable to carry out a risk assessment because the data were incomplete.”

He explained that animal experiments show there is some evidence that mineral oil mixtures may affect the liver, heart and immune system.

Wadge said that the World Health Organisation has set strict limits for some mineral oils which might be harmful over a period of time.

Speaking to Packaging News, Packaging Society vice chairman Kevin Vyse added: “Recycled board has been used by the cereal industry for most of its life. The fact that mineral oils have been found in the product in recent years is more as a result of trying to find cheap alternative recyclate.

“Newsprint is almost certainly going to carry with it residual ink and is the likely source of the issue. This is why the board industry must do, and will react to hard and qualified fact rather than one study on 119 boxes which represent a minuscule fraction of the total sold in Europe every day.

“Obviously, no contaminant is a good thing but we should be wary of headline stories, especially when the story can be turned to the cause of competitor bashing!”

The FSA is “taking this issue very seriously,” explained Wadge and are “busy gathering more data, which give us a better view of whether any further action needs to be taken to protect consumers. Results from this work will be available in the summer”.

The FSA is also checking the manufacturing processes “successfully remove substances” from recycled packaging that present a food safety problems.

Jordans, the cereal company, has scrapped its recycled packaging in favour of sustainable ‘virgin’ cardboard because of contamination concerns. Kellogg’s and Weetabix said they were taking steps to reduce the amount of mineral oil in their packaging.

However, Wadge said: “As always, any new information will be published on our website  [FSA] as it becomes available, but the bottom line is there really is no reason to panic about your morning muesli, and I won’t be changing my daily porridge eating habit.”

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