CEPI, the Confederation of European Paper Industries, said the sector was aware of the issue raised recently by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Germany and had prioritised analysing the importance of the findings.
It added that no risk to consumers had yet been discovered and that German safety assessors had used “new and not yet verified analytical technique which has produced results which differ from existing testing results and expert knowledge about the subject”.
The industry had already established testing methods and safety limits for these substances but confirmed it would propose new maximum levels for mineral oils in recycled cardboard “if necessary”, said the paper body.
The German risk assessors expressed concern over the significant amounts of mineral oil in cardboard boxes made from recycled paper. This mineral oil, which is thought to come from ink used in newspaper printing could potentially contaminate food products and pose human health risks, said the BfR. It recommended that inner bags be used with foods that have high surface contact with cardboard - such as rice and couscous - to prevent substance migration. Using cardboard made from virgin fibres was a second strategy put forward.
“The paper industry is working closely together with all relevant authorities and stakeholders along the value chain, which includes printing ink makers, the printing and publishing industries and the packaging industry, and also the food industry and retail sector,” CEPI managing director Teresa Presas, told FoodProductionDaily.com. “We are all working hard on finding the best solution for this concern.”
The group also called on ink users to find alternatives to the materials it currently uses and provide clearer safety information on them.
“It is understood that safe substitutes are available for the affected newsprint inks,” said CEPI in its position paper on the matter. “Therefore, the ink users are urged to substitute these substances in place of the relevantmineral oils and provide transparent information about the safety of their ink formulations where human health is a factor.”
The trade body underlined that the existing testing methods and safety limits for mineral oil presences are rigorously complied with.