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Materials Technology

Finnish pioneers seek barrier to toxic transmissions in packaged food.

Bio-Based World News Cereal BoxesVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is leading the way with a trail-blazing new bio-based packaging solution set to alleviate the present industry dilemma of how to manage mineral oil migration into packaged food.

The issue of mineral oil migration in our packaged food was first raised as a concern in 2009 and has become an industry-wide concern. The potential for toxic mineral oils to be transmitted into consumables through its packaging is increasingly understood as one of the key challenges in food packaging best practice.

As a result, writes Holly Williams of Bio-Based World News, there is a soaring demand for preventative bio-based mineral oil barrier technology to be implemented in food packaging as a deeper understanding of the harmful effect of these transmissions emerges.

Traditional food packaging products are slow to incorporate effective solutions Large-scale implementation of bio-based mineral oil barrier technology is a gradual process and VTTs (@VTTFinland) innovative new product is ahead of the curve in helping brands stem transmission into food stuffs.

What are these mineral oils and why do they matter?

The mineral oils concerned are comprised of two main components; MOSH (the main component, mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) and MOAH (the lesser component, mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons). Recycled cardboard, found in a popular range of traditional food packaging, contains a range of mineral oils including those present in solvents, waxes and adhesives – All of which usually migrate by evaporating into gases that slowly enter food-stuffs through exposure over time.

Bio-Based World News CarcinogensMOAH are suspected mutagens and carcinogens, they are also endocrine disruptors. When transmitted to the food we eat, MOSH have the potential to accumulate in the body and cause dysfunctions. Once in the human body, these compounds are stored in various organs; e.g. the liver and lymph nodes the side-effects of which remain unknown.

Expert in the field, Professor Reinhard Mattissek – Director of the Food Chemistry Institute (LCI – A Division of the BDSI a research body) has been examining the toxic potential of mineral oil transmission into food for number of years – Mattissek explains the problem; Mineral oil components are widely found and can migrate into virtually any kind of food. It is widely known that migration can occur via packaging made of recycled cardboard and paper. These mineral oils stem from printing inks customarily used in newspaper printing. (Source: BDSI Scientific Press)

Mineral oil transmission is an industry-wide problem in food stuffs that use recycled paper and cardboard in their packaging Newspaper ink is a particularly damaging route for mineral oil transmission highlighted across studies conducted by specialist research groups such as the EFSA (, BDSI and Foodwatch (@foodwatch_de) – In October 2015, Foodwatch, published the results of a study based on 120 packaged dry foods across the Netherlands, Germany and France. Of the 120 tested products, 83%, contained mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and 43% containeBio-Based World News Foodwatch Product Testing Ranged mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH). (Source & Photo Credit: Foodwatch Study Test Products) The findings were clear, barrier products such as VTTs bio-based mineral oil barrier were the key to stemming this migration into food.

The technology:

VTTs bio-based mineral oil barrier bags create a 2-layer film that can be used as a bag-in-box liner for dry foods including popular consumer products like breakfast cereals.

VTT has developed and successfully tested several ways to create bio-based grease barriers for packaging. Acting as an alternative to current chemicals, VTTs barrier technology provides a grease barrier that meets both sustainability and product safety concerns. Bio-based grease barriers meet sustainable initiatives They are recyclable, renewable, suitable for films, and water-based coatings whilst effectively preventing the migration of mineral oils to food from food packages containing recycled fibres.

Bio-Based World News VTT ResearchThe formulated SutCo pilot foam coating line and new patent-pending technology (PCT/FI2016/5075) use nano-sized cellulose fibrils proven to decrease mineral oil migration to acceptable levels.

Bio-based barrier bags prepared from Tempo-CNF coated bio-HDPE film protected the tested content to a significant extent from mineral oil migration. There was no evidence of any seepage through heat-sealed areas of bio-based bags and completely transparent films behaved faultlessly during processing, a very low migration of each component mineral oil was obtained with Tempo-CNF coatings.*

These bio-based alternatives are set to replace liners that have, up until now, largely been manufactured from conventional HDPE film or polyethylene inner bags, which presently are below standard in the prevention of mineral oil component migration into packaged food products (photo credit VTT Research).

Brand demand for bio-based mineral oil barrier technology in food-packaging will see VTT quickly meet its market. With increased commercial demand for packaging that embraces evolving industry standards and best practice in regards to stemming mineral oil transmission in the food production value-chain, it is likely that we will see this kind of barrier technology implemented across international household brands.

*Migration after 7 days at 23C for n-decane, isobutylbenzene, 1-cyclohexylbutane, 1-cyclohexylheptane and 1-cyclohexyldecane was 207, 173, 125, 13 and 1 mg/kg respectively. Significant reduction (>>90%) was attained as compared to non-coated bio-HDPE and other commercial cereal bag films. (KL)

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