freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Recycled cardboard in toxic health scare | Christine Morgan - Journalist
+44 (0)7931 342850

Yikes! I can almost hear the sound of riskfactorphobes around the world binning their breakfast cereal boxes this morning, as the news breaks that government officials from Switzerland claim to have found toxic chemicals in recycled cardboard – the type used to make many types of food packaging. Yes, even big food manufacturers such as Kellogg’s and Weetabix are said to be taking steps to minimise the potential harm recycled cardboard could be doing to its customers, while cereal firm Jordan’s has stopped using recycled cardboard in its packaging altogether.

The scientists, working at a food safety lab in the Canton of Zurich, say they’ve found chemicals called mineral oils at between 10 and 100 times more than the agreed limits in foods sold in recycled cardboard packaging, cereal being just one of them. Mineral oils, you might think, don’t sound so bad, but they have been linked to all sorts of health problems, including cancer.

So where are they coming from, these mineral oils? Well they come from recycled newspapers, apparently – and more specifically from printing inks.

The toxins can seep through the inner packaging and get into the food we eat, the scientists warn. And the longer a food product has been on the shelf (or in your kitchen cupboard), the more mineral oils it could absorb. Only aluminium-coated or thick plastic inner packaging will stop the migration of the toxins from the cardboard to the food inside, the researchers claim.

As I said, yikes.

But hang on. Is anyone else out there old enough to remember running to the chippie when they were kids, and taking their fish and chips home in, er, newspaper wrap? Well maybe printing inks weren’t toxic back in those days, but you’ve got to admit, it’s a miracle anybody survived back then.

Darn. Fish and chips. Now I’ve gone and made myself feel hungry… (but, er, I think I’ll pass on another bowl of cereal).