The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signalled the all clear as part of a statement summing up its and Kellogg’s response to the alert that began at the end of June.
“Based on all available information, FDA has concluded that this problem has been resolved,” said the agency.
The body added that it had received no further reports of additional consumer complaints about an off taste and odour in the Kellogg Company brands of cereal products - Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Froot Loops, and Apple Jacks - since the alert was issued on 25 June. Around 50 people had complained to the firm about the problems, including several who reported experiencing ill effects after eating one of the products.
It later became clear that elevated levels of a hydrocarbon called methylnaphthalene used in the manufacture of waxed paper liners appeared to have caused the problem.
The FDA said that after becoming aware of the problem, Kellogg had immediately isolated all suspect wax paper liner materials, conducted chemical testing on them, and kept reserve samples of what they tested. The company then destroyed all the remaining suspect liner material to prevent it going back into production.
This statement backs the company’s assertion that it did not destroy the liners prior to issuing its recall – as suggested in a report in the Washington Post this week. A US Congressional oversight committee has called on Kellogg to make a full disclosure about the recall and hand over any risk assessments it has carried out about methylnaphthalene – which it described as “hazardous”.
The company’s European spokesman Paul Fitzsimmons told FoodProductionDaily.com that Kellogg does not use 2-methylnaphthalene or methylnaphthalene in its plants in the region. When asked to explain the reason for this difference with its US operations, he added that Kellogg Europe uses a different method to manufacture the inner linings of the cereal packaging.
The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) said the chemical is not used by the region’s paper sector.
At European level there are positive lists of authorised substances only for a limited number of materials, said an official from the European Commission.
However, she added that all food contact materials are subject to a framework Regulation 1935/2004 which establishes they must not release substances in the food which may endanger the health of consumers or change the smell or taste characteristics of the food.
In cases of materials for which positive lists of authorised substances are not available at EU level, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the substances used are safe and do not migrate into food in dangerous quantities or change the organoleptic characteristic of the food. Manufacturers should also have appropriate documentation available for compliance authorities.
The official confirmed that as the substance concerned is not authorised at EU level as a food contact material, no risk assessment has been made.
Earlier this year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set up an expert panel to evaluate the safety of non-plastic food contact materials such as inks and adhesives. The main priorities of the panel are likely to include printing inks and paper/cardboard used in packaging.