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Compostable films pass mineral oil barrier tests with flying colours, company

By Rory Harrington , 18-Aug-2011

Innovia Films said extensive tests have demonstrated its cellulose-based compostable films provide an effective barrier against the migration of mineral oil residues from recycled cardboard packaging into food.

The UK-based company said rigorous scientific analyses carried out at its own research centre and validated by the Swiss laboratory that first raised concerns about the issue showed its range of NatureFlex films have the necessary barrier properties to protect foods from mineral oil migration.

Validation and certification

Potential health fears over the migration of mineral oil residues from recycled cardboard packaging were first made in two studies by the Zurich’s Official Food Control Authority in 2010.

Dr Koni Grob, who headed the research, said traces of mineral oils were found in dry foods such as cereals, rice and pasta after leaching from packaging and inks. In a number of cases the chemicals had breached inner packaging bags.

The residues have been linked to inflammation of internal organs and even cancer, said the scientists.

After obtaining the correct method from the Zurich authority, Innovia said it carried out tests on the films at its research hub in Wigton, England. The results were then sent to the Swiss scientists for validation - with Dr Grob’s team also repeating the tests on the film before issuing certification on proof of their mineral oil barrier properties.

Dry foods

“The mineral oil barrier is inherent in the films and we have not had to develop or add anything new to our existing product,” company marketing manager Clare McKeown told FoodProductionDaily.com. “When used as an inner bag, pouch or board laminate it provides an effective barrier for a number of years, and certainly beyond the shelf life of dry foods.”

A company strategy to target the dry foods market had triggered the decision to test the films’ mineral oil barrier properties.

“NatureFlex is constantly evolving and we are now marketing the improved product to the dry foods segment,” said McKeown. “It was therefore an ideal time to get its barrier properties against mineral oil residues tested.”

The film also has the required oxygen and moisture barrier properties for dry food packaging, said the company.

Adoption of the NatureFlex films in pouches, inner bags and board laminates would likely result in a small on-cost in the packaging, said McKeown..

“However, we believe that use of our films brings genuine sustainability and food safety benefits,” she added. “And, with bag in box applications for example, it means that companies that have switched to using more expensive virgin board can change back to recycled board, which also provides a cost benefit.”

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