mardi 3 mars 2009

Packaging ink migration ruling challenged

Tetra Pak said it is appealing a ruling by an Italian judge who sentenced both the global packaging equipment supplier and food giant Nestle to pay compensation to a party based on the presence of a packaging chemical in baby milk.

According to the ANSA news agency, the Sicilian court ruled that Nestle Italia and Tetra Pak International were responsible for the ‘psychological prejudice’ suffered by the parents of two girls when they became aware that the infant formula their daughters had consumed was contaminated by IsopropilThioXantone (ITX).

Product recall

Italy’s food safety regulators detected ITX in some batches of Nestle baby milk in 2005, sparking a massive recall at the time. The packaging had been produced by Tetra Pak, and the ink curing agent was found to have migrated from the carton into the milk.

Linda Bernier, director of corporate PR for Tetra Pak, told that the company was restricted in the comments it could make as the appeal case is pending but she stressed that seven other similar cases brought by plaintiffs in the intervening years were dismissed as groundless by the judges in question.

She said that Tetra Pak no longer uses the chemical ITX for its food packaging, and has switched to printing methods that do not use photo initiators, even thought the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) concluded at the time that ITX posed no danger to human health at the levels found in the products.

Tainted cereal

Meanwhile, migration of a chemical from cardboard packaging into the food prompted the European Commission last week to request a risk assessment on the substance from EFSA.

A German customer of a Belgian cereal manufacturer discovered the presence of 4-methylbenzophenone in a chocolate crunch muesli product at levels amounting to 798 μg/kilogram parts per billion (ppb) and notified the relevant authorities.

EFSA has been asked to evaluate the risk of the presence of the ink component in food, and also whether the existing tolerable daily intake (TDI) for similar substances benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone could also be applied to 4-methylbenzophenone; the chemicals are all used as photo-initiators in the area of printing inks.

Regulation on inks

Inks, according to the Commission, are not covered by specific European legislation on food contact materials. However the use of printing inks has to comply with the general rules of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 and with good manufacturing practice (GMP) as laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006.

In relation to components of packaging such as inks, Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 states that under normal or foreseeable conditions of use they should not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could endanger human health.

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