Is There Cardboard in Your Food?

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DO you pay attention to how your food is packaged? Some people do. And they’ve arrived at an unsettling perspective on recycled cardboard. In a piece of health news sure to get some play in the mainstream media, researchers found that harmful mineral oils from the cardboard could migrate into the food.

And suddenly those healing foods aren’t so healing.

The oils are from printing inks used on cardboard. If recycled cardboard is used for food packaging, it could leak into the food. It might, the study says, even contaminate food even if the recycled cardboard is used for the corrugated card transport box that holds individual packs.

Researchers in Switzerland found that (in packs of fine noodles) food rapidly absorbed 10 times the recommended limit for concentration of these contaminating oils from the transport box.

The recognized limit for these oils is 0.6 mg in each kg of food, but researchers discovered that, after standing in packaging for just six weeks, food could contain 6.1 mg/kg. And this was in food that had a two-year shelf life, so it is quite possible that the value could increase further over time.

Many dry foods such as rice, noodles, breadcrumbs, cornflakes and muesli are sold in paperboard boxes, where the recommended limit of mineral oil contamination may be exceeded over 100 times. Even more foods are stored and transported in larger boxes largely consisting of recycled paperboard. The research showed that, even if the food was contained in clean paperboard boxes from fresh fibers, printed with inks free of mineral oil and wrapped into a polyethylene film (also free of mineral oil); mineral oils from the corrugated card transport box far exceeded the limit.

The researchers say that many companies have realized the problem and recently some have changed their packaging materials. They use fresh fiber paperboard printed with inks free of mineral oil. But, even still, there is an issue. They continue to use recycled card in the corrugated board transport boxes, which means the problem continues to exist.

It’s not as if we as food consumers have that much say in this. But it is worth noting where your food comes from and how it is transported. Every supermarket should discuss with their customers where their food comes from if asked. So ask! Write a local politician to look into it. If anything, just be aware.

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