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Investigation of the Migration of Inorganic Contaminants into Dry Food from Packaging Made from Recycled Paper and Board


Twenty samples of recycled paper and board packaging, used in contact with dry food were obtained through manufacturers and retailers. Twenty samples of virgin paper and board used in contact with dry food were also collected for comparison. Products included flour, rice, pulses, cereal, biscuits, salt, fruit and pasta. Samples of recycled paper and board were also obtained direct from the paper mill. The samples were analysed using a very sensitive, multielemental technique for the detection of trace elements down to very low concentrations. Samples of the paper and board were analysed to determine 64 elements in total, including those of physiological/ toxicological interest.
Following analysis, the samples were tested for migration of the elements by keeping the food in contact with the packaging for a period of up to 90 days. Ten examples of packaging with potential for migration were selected for the study, with products including salt, rice, oats, tea, fruit, pasta, fries and pizza. The food was tested for signs of migration at regular intervals: (1, 8, 21, 30, 60 and 90 days). At the end of the contact period of 90 days the foods were shaken vigorously to see if any physical abrasion of the packaging might enhance migration.

More information

Recycling of wastepaper is believed to increase the concentrations of metals in the recycled product. Although it is generally assumed that there is no risk of migration of chemical contaminants from recycled paper and board into dry food, there is some evidence that this might occur. Therefore it is important to carry out research on whether migration occurs into all or only certain types of dry food; which elements migrate and to what extent. This study was carried out to determine the presence of inorganic contaminants in recycled paper and board, which is intended for contact with dry foods; to investigate whether there is migration into these foodstuffs; and to determine whether they are potentially of concern to human health.
This purpose of this project is to establish whether there is a need for a safety review with respect to inorganic contaminants in recycled paper and board in contact with dry food.
The first objective was to compare the concentrations of trace elements in the recycled paper and board used in contact with dry food with those found in virgin paper and board packaging, to see if the concentrations are higher in recycled material. The second objective was to investigate whether there is migration of trace elements from recycled paper and board packaging into dry food. Finally a dry food 'simulant' (a chemical compound used to mimic the behaviour of real food in a migration test) was investigated.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="; target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.

Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, T.H. Huxley School of Environment, Earth Sciences and Engineering
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