New test finds diisobutyl phthalate in some cardboard food packaging -- recycling is the issue

November 28, 2007

A new test can identify take-away paper-based food containers (such as pizza boxes) that break phthalate safety rules. The phthalates (plasticisers) are present because the containers were made from pulp that contained at least some recycled paper and cardboard. In Italy, where the test was developed, this use of recycled paper and cardboard for food packaging breaks food safety rules.

Recycling paper and cardboard is a great goal, but it can have its problems. If the original paper is loaded with inks, adhesives and other substances, then these will be passed into the new recycled material. If that material is used to package food then the food could be exposed to the chemicals from recycling. One chemical of particular concern is diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP). This is commonly found in inks and other chemicals used in printing. It is potentially dangerous because it has a similar structure to androgenic hormones in the human body.

With take away pizzas, hot food is placed inside the cardboard box, and so there is a high chance that the food will be exposed to any volatile chemicals in the cardboard such as plasticisers as they will enter the headspace of the box. To avoid this contamination, the boxes should be made from unrecycled materials.

Working at the University of Milan, Italy, a team of scientists has developed a test that looks specifically at DIBP. In a paper published in this week’s edition of Packaging Technology and Science, the researchers report the analysis of boxes purchased from 16 different take-away restaurants in northern Italy.

They found that while some boxes exposed pizza to just over 7 micrograms of DIBP under test conditions, others gave exposure to over 40 micrograms and one to more than 70 micrograms of DIBP. This is a clear indication that the boxes had been manufactured using at least some recycled paper or cardboard.

‘Our test can give a standardised measurement of the risk of exposure associated with individual types of boxes,’ says lead author Monica Bononi.

‘Safety is a key concern in the food industry, and regulations within Italian law help by setting standards for packaging. Our test could help monitor how well manufacturers are keeping to those standards,’ says co-author Professor Fernando Tateo.

Source: Wiley/Blackwell

Explore further: Using recycled cardboard in food packaging risks contaminating food with mineral oils

Related Stories

Using recycled cardboard in food packaging risks contaminating food with mineral oils

June 15, 2011
Harmful mineral oils from the printing inks used on cardboard can migrate into food if recycled cardboard is used for food packaging. It may contaminate food even if the recycled cardboard is used for the corrugated card ...

Kenya HIV families torn between health or food

December 22, 2011
(AP) -- Rosalia Adhiambo won't take the free anti-HIV drugs that would prolong her life. The spiraling price of food in Kenya means she can't afford to feed both her grandniece and herself.

Daniel Ribera: Turning food-soiled packaging into safe compost

March 5, 2013
Composting instead of incinerating or landfilling is a promising way that has until now been hampered by the presence of chemicals in packaging.

Skillful cockatoos filmed making the same tool from different materials

November 15, 2016
Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the University of Oxford have shown that Goffin's cockatoos can make and use elongated tools of appropriate shape and length out of different materials, ...

People not hooked on fish could get their omega-3 through dairy, study finds

November 30, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Not everyone has a taste for fish, even though it is a natural source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Virtually painless – how VR is making surgery simpler

January 31, 2017
Surgeons and their patients are finding that virtual reality can relieve the pain and stress of operations – and it's safer and cheaper than sedatives. Jo Marchant travels to a Mexican mountaintop village to visit a clinic ...

Recommended for you

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.