Health fear over recycled packaging
Food manufacturers have been urged to consider new packaging methods for products such as breakfast cereal after researchers raised concerns about possible health risks from recycled cardboard.
Researchers in Switzerland found that mineral oils in printing ink from recycled newspapers used in cardboard can get into foods such as cereal, pasta and rice - even passing through protective inner plastic bags.
Koni Grob, of the Food Safety Laboratory in Zurich, said toxicologists had linked the oils to inflammation of internal organs and even cancer, though he stressed individual meals would contain only a tiny dose of chemicals. He said non-recycled packaging was too costly in terms of the environment and new solutions needed to be considered such as inner food linings which act as effective barriers.
Research has found that products such as paper and bags made of polyethylene and polypropylene are ineffective as a barrier from mineral oils, he said, but aluminium foil was effective.
Cereal firm Jordans has stopped using recycled cardboard while other manufacturers are reportedly taking action to reduce levels of mineral oils in packaging.
The Swiss researchers analysed 119 products bought from German supermarkets last year and found that a large majority contained traces of mineral oils higher than the agreed level. Only those with thicker and more expensive inner lining bags appeared to escape contamination, which increased the longer products were on the shelves.
Studies on rats have highlighted the dangers to health of mineral oils, said Dr Grob, but he added: "One meal has no real effect on health. It is a matter of long-term exposure."
A Food Standards Agency spokesman said: "The agency continues to review evidence in this area and will act to protect consumers if the evidence shows it is necessary to do so."
In a statement, Jordans said it had stopped using recycled card: "As an environmentally-conscious business, Jordans take the decision reluctantly, but felt it was sensible."
A Kellogg's spokesman said: "While experts tell us there's no immediate health concern, we are looking at our packaging. We are working with our suppliers on new packaging which allows us to meet our environmental commitments but will also contain significantly lower levels of mineral oil. We are also looking at alternative inner liners for our packets."