Positive progress of mineral oils ordinance

Nina Happonen

Food safety is a very important issue for Metsä Board, as our boards are used all around the world for food packaging. We were concerned when we learnt about the possible harmful effects of mineral oil migration from recycled fibre based packaging into foodstuffs. Now, its prevention is the objective of the proposed 21st German Consumer Goods Ordinance.

Scope of the Ordinance

Early drafts suggested that more than recycled fibre packaging material might be covered by the Ordinance. We now learn, however, that in its third draft only recycled fibre based boards and papers used for food packaging are covered, with specifications laid down for acceptability.

Boards and papers for food contact must not contain more than defined limits of Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons (MOSH) or Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOAH).  If material exceeds the limits, food producers must document how they ensure migration of mineral oils into food is below a certain value.

We understand that in practice this would require a functional barrier against mineral oils when food packaging uses recycled boards, except in the special case of frozen food or for limited storage time.

No unnecessary barriers for our boards

This is good news for our customers, because they won’t face the disadvantages of adding a barrier to our boards to avoid mineral oil contamination, even for direct contact with food. As well as extra cost, barriers mean paper and board cannot be recycled as easily, and may add to confusion over what packaging is suitable for recycling. Of course, there are still reasons to use a barrier with our boards, such as for liquids or moist or fatty foodstuffs.

 All our boards are clean and safe for packaging consumer foods because all their raw materials are traceable, including fresh fibres back to source in sustainably managed northern forests. Unlike recycled boards, they contain no printing inks or other substances containing mineral oils.

 Through our own research (see Pirita Suortamo’s blog 11 March 2014) we also found there is no threat from ’indirect migration’, where mineral oils might migrate from, say, recycled transport packaging and on through a fresh fibre carton into food.

Next stages

The commenting phase of the Ordinance ended on 17th September, and further stages involving EU ratification will last up to six months. So the earliest date for implementation would be early 2015, followed by a transition period.

 Where our health is concerned, no steps are too many. While the public has a right to trust the packaging industry, legislation is helpful in enforcing good practice. So brand owners and converters need to be aware of the implications of the Ordinance, and factor them in when it comes to choosing recycled or fresh fibre boards for food packaging.

Nina Happonen's blog post
Nina Happonen

Commercial Director, Food and Beverages
Metsä Board, Cartonboard


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30.12.2016 - Toney

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