Breakfast cereal packets 'linked to cancer'

Researchers in Switzerland claim to have found that mineral oils in printing ink from recycled newspapers used in cardboard can get into foods such as breakfast cereals, even passing through protective inner plastic bags.

Even brands of pasta and rice which are packaged in recycled cardboard could also pose a risk.

Dr Koni Grob from the Food Safety Laboratory in Zurich said toxicologists had linked the oils to inflammation of internal organs and even cancer, though he stressed that individual meals would contain a tiny dose of the chemicals.

The researchers analysed 119 products bought from German supermarkets last year and found that a large majority contained traces of mineral oils higher than the agreed level, the British media reported.

Only those with thicker and more expensive inner lining bags appeared to escape contamination, which increased the longer products were on the shelves.

"Roughly 30 products from 119 were free of mineral oils, nearly all because of an inner barrier. For the others, they all exceeded the limits and most exceeded it by 10 times.

"We calculated that before the end of their shelf life, they would probably exceed the limit 50 times on average and many would exceed it by several hundred times," Dr Grob said.

Studies on rats have highlighted the dangers to health of mineral oils, said Dr Grob, adding, "Toxicologists talk about two effects. One is the chronic inflammation of various internal organs and the other one is cancer."

But he added: "One meal has no real effect on health. It is a matter of long-term exposure."

The revelations have immediately prompted leading cereal manufacturers like Jordans to announce it had already stopped using recycled cardboard. Other manufacturers like the Kellogg's said they were looking at the research and taking action to reduce levels of mineral oils in their packaging.

A Kellogg's spokesman said: "While experts tell us there's no immediate health concern, we are looking at our packaging. We are working with our suppliers on new packaging which allows us to meet our environmental commitments but will also contain significantly lower levels of mineral oil."

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