Recycled cardboard and safety: A potential corporate scandal?

Does this story mean we shouldn’t use recycled cardboard in food, due to health concerns?

In brief: The story is that the inks ‘mineral oils’, used in recycled cardboard for, say, cereal boxes, may be leaking into the food within en masse, creating health risks.

The health risks are not immediate, but perhaps cumulative, according to Swiss scientists quoted by the BBC.

Some people might argue this means recycled cardboard is dangerous and should not be used. No doubt right wing bloggers will leap on this to argue the green agenda is dangerous etc etc.

Others might argue that it simply means companies should use thicker or better protective bags inside the boxes for cereals.

Given there is not enough virgin pulp to go around, not to mention the environmental impact of pure pulp and the cost, this has to be the logical position if the reports are proven true.

Of course this will have an effect on costs and perhaps even on environmental impacts (thin plastic vs. foil bags) but it seems more of an technical problem than an issue that requires a solution that does not involve recycled cardboard.

The BBC reports that “Cereal firm Jordans has stopped using recycled cardboard”.

UK listeners can hear the Today programme piece on the issue here.

This appears to be a public relations move designed to re-assure consumers. It’s likely not sustainable in the long term. Better packaging, not pure virgin pulp, is clearly the solution.

Meanwhile, whether this becomes a major media story or not will depend on the results of further studies.

Millions of people in the UK will have heard about the potential risks in the media this week. Another safety and reputational risk for food brands has arisen.

(What seems a little worrying, if true, is that while the UK Food Standards Authorities are only looking at the levels of mineral oils in packaging, whilst Germany is actually studying food contamination and has told retailers/food brands to get moving on the issue)

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