Findings from a series of recent Official Food Control Authority Laboratory reports coming out of Switzerland have raised concerns over mineral oil migration occurring in packaging made with recycled content. The reports focused on technical grade oils that are largely linked to inks used in newspapers entering the recycling stream. This research builds on previous studies suggesting that technical grade mineral oils pose health concerns and are found to accummulate in the liver, lymph nodes and heart valves when ingested. There are additional concerns about aromatic mineral oils being carcinogenic, though their toxicology data remains uncertain.
First, there is still uncertainty about direct and indirect contamination sources. Direct contamination is common in baking, when mineral oils are used for applications like conditioning pans, knives and cutting boards. Agricultural practices also have direct applications for removing grain dust or fruit and vegetable coatings. Regulations are in place to ensure that these applications meet food-grade specifications, but this cannot be ruled out as a potential contamination source.
On a broader level, this brings up the issue of transparency. There is an underlying need for greater transparency about the use of chemicals throughout all stages of production. This is not something specific to mineral oils or packaging, but it is applicable across all industry sectors and supply chains.