Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) director general David Workman has told MRW that the CPI is working closely with publishers to try and phase out inks containing mineral oils, but has said that there needs to be more research conducted to ascertain if they pose a risk when using them in recycled food packaging.
The response comes in light of a report by the BBC which claims that research conducted by scientists in Switzerland shows that food has been contaminated by the cardboard cartons it is packaged in. According to the report, chemicals known as mineral oils are found in the inks used in newspaper, which are then used to make packaging such as cereal boxes.
The BBC says exposure to mineral oils has been linked to inflammation of internal organs and cancer. But the article states that “the Swiss food safety authorities have concluded that consumers who eat a balanced and varied diet have no need to worry”.
Workman said: “I think whenever a report like this comes out for any material it shouldn’t be ignored but at the same time, it is a single report and has not been corroborated by any other research. We are aware that there are issues with mineral oils in inks and as an industry we need to get out of using inks with mineral oils in them.”
He added that most packaging has a liner on the inside which is made from virgin material, separating the food from the recycled material that makes up the rest of the packaging. “We believe there is no need to panic and there is no need to change our recycling habits,” he said.
“There have been no toxicological studies produced on the affect of the exposure to mineral oils in packaging because it hasn’t been perceived as a problem in the past and it is still not recognised as a big problem at the moment… We need to ascertain if it is a problem. We are taking it seriously, the research is not being dismissed.”
Workman commented that it may mean, that in the short-term, newsprint will have to be banned from being used for food packaging. Instead, there would be a need to ensure recovered news and pams are recycled into fresh newspapers.
“It may even strengthen the point we have been stressing that newsprint and cardboard should be separately collected” he added.
Jordan’s cereal firm has stopped using recycled cardboard in some of its packaging because of this issue over mineral oils contaminating food. A spokesman said: “The latest research emerging from Switzerland on the content of recycled board is relatively new and Jordans did not change to use accredited board specifically in response to this issue. However, we will be discussing improved supply of recycled board that avoids content from newspapers with the industry and our suppliers.”