Harmful mineral oils in recycled cardboard can find their way into food – even if the cardboard does not touch the food directly, Packaging Technology and Science reports (via Environmental Protection).
In tests on experimental packs of noodles, researchers found that food quickly absorbed ten times the recommended limit for these oils – even though the oils were in the corrugated box used to transport multiple packs, rather than in the individual food packaging. This happened even when the food was contained in clean paperboard boxes made with fresh fibres and mineral oil-free inks, and wrapped in polyethylene film that was also free of mineral oil.
The widely-recognized limit for these oils is 0.6 mg per kilogram of food. In the study, some food reached 6.1 mg per kg after just six weeks. The food was intended to have a two-year shelf life, so the researchers said the contamination level could have risen higher.
Many dry foods are sold in paperboard boxes, Environmental Protection reported. These include noodles, rice, breadcrumbs, muesli and cornflakes. And many more foods are stored and transported in large recycled paperboard boxes.
“There is a tension between the need to recycle paper and board and the need to keep food free from high levels of these mineral oils,” says Dr. Koni Grob, an analytical chemist and head of the research team based at the Official Food Control.
Although many companies have changed their packaging material to fresh-fiber paperboard free of mineral oil, Grob said, “They are still using recycled card in the corrugated board transport boxes which renders their efforts fruitless.”
“In terms of amounts of food packaging material involved, this problem exceeds all those experienced in the past. It needs to be addressed with corresponding care.”
Picture credit: Simon Li