Uncertainty on mineral oils in recycled packaging

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

The industry is lacking guidance on safe levels of mineral oils in food-grade boards
The industry is lacking guidance on safe levels of mineral oils in food-grade boards
As a new range of food-grade boards targets the challenge of mineral oil content in recycled fibre, and its potential migration into food, many in the wider supply chain have been left perplexed by the lack of clear guidance from regulatory bodies on safe levels and how they can be measured.

In May, Smurfit Kappa announced that its MB12 recycled board, with an activated carbon layer, was available for food-contact applications. VP product development Lars Henriksson told Food Manufacture: “It acts as an absorber in the packaging, stopping the potential migration of mineral oils to the food.”

Additional cost is incurred with MB12 because of the adapted manufacturing process, he said, but the price is “competitive” compared with other solutions.

Creating a barrier

Many such solutions rely on creating an effective barrier against the potential migration of inks from the recycled board.

These different options are needed, because there are so many types of food each with their own requirements​,” said Jori Ringman, deputy director general at the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).

Meanwhile, some claim to have noticed “an uptick​” in industry interest in addressing the challenge of mineral oils.

Recommended limits

Uncertainty about permitted or recommended limits for these substances is compounded by the lack of any real guidance from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or other EU bodies.

Alistair Irvine, food contact compliance manager at Smithers Pira, said: “EFSA put together a 180-page scientific report, which came to no firm conclusions. There’s no legislation. In fact, Germany’s Federal Agency for Risk Assessment (BfR) has produced several draft regulations, none of which have made it into legislation.”

CEPI’s Ringman added: “Science has also evolved, as was seen at a BfR stakeholder meeting last December.” This included new evidence that certain types of mineral oil were not a health concern for humans. “Treating all these fractions as a single category of materials is clearly rubbish.”

Related topics: Packaging, Packaging materials

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