By Simona Rossi
Recycled food packaging can lead to health problems due to the release of toxic mineral oils, a recent study by Swiss researchers has found.
Recycled cardboard is made from toxic chemicals derived from the ink used in printed newspapers.
The longer the environmentally-packaged food stays on the shelves the higher the degree of intoxication, the report found. Not even inner bags are sufficient to stop this process.
Foods such as pasta, flour, rice and cereals are at a higher risk of contamination because they have a greater surface area to volume.
And the safer option of using ‘virgin board’ cardboard produced, from freshly cut trees, is both uneconomical and environmentally damaging, according to an employee of a British cereal company.
The technical director of Morning Foods, Derek Croucher, said: “The environmental effects of changing would be massive. There simply aren’t enough trees in Europe for everyone to move to virgin board as a knee-jerk reaction to this.”
Environmentally responsible food companies, such as Jordans, have already stopped using the toxic packaging. The cereal company claims it has had to prioritise its customers’ safety over its environmental obligations.
Other companies, such as Weetabix and Kellogg’s, are still trying to find a suitable alternative to the cheap and green recycled cardboard.
The Food Standards Agency does not accept that there is any real evidence of serious risk and is conducting its own research on the safety of recycled food packaging in the UK.
Dr Koni Grob, of the government-run laboratory for the research on food safety of the Canton of Zurich, conducted the study for the German food ministry.
Out of 119 tested samples from German supermarkets, only 30 were deemed safe. The rest had degrees of mineral oils between 10 and 100 times higher than the accepted level.
Dr Grob’s study links high dosage and extended exposure to the chemicals with severe inflammation of internal organs and cancer.