Breakfast cereal manufacturers are to stop using recycled cardboard in packaging after a study indicated that current boxes could pose a cancer risk.
Jordans – whose brands include Country Crisp and Crunchy Oats – has already stopped using recycled cardboard, while Kellogg’s and Weetabix say they are taking steps to reduce the risk to human health.
The alert was sparked when researchers in Switzerland found that mineral oils in printing ink from recycled newspapers used in cardboard can get into foods – even passing through protective inner plastic bags.
Brands of pasta and rice which are packaged in recycled cardboard could also pose a risk.
Dr Koni Grob, of the Food Safety Laboratory in Zurich, said toxicologists had linked the oils to inflammation of internal organs and even cancer, though he stressed that individual meals would contain only a tiny dose of the chemicals.
The BBC reported that cereal firm Jordans has stopped using recycled cardboard while other manufacturers are reducing levels of mineral oils in packaging.
The Swiss researchers analysed a total of 119 products bought from German supermarkets last year and found that a large majority contained traces of mineral oils higher than the agreed level. Only those with thicker and more expensive inner lining bags appeared to escape contamination, which increased the longer products were on the shelves.
”Roughly 30 products from 119 were free of mineral oils, nearly all because of an inner barrier,” said Dr Grob. ”For the others, they all exceeded the limits and most exceeded it by 10 times.
”We calculated that before the end of their shelf life, they would probably exceed the limit 50 times on average and many would exceed it by several hundred times.”
Studies on rats have highlighted the dangers to health of mineral oils, said Dr Grob, adding: ”Toxicologists talk about two effects. One is the chronic inflammation of various internal organs and the other one is cancer.”