Packaging materials: DIN standard on migration published

In the context with food packaging, mineral oil hydrocarbons (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSHs) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAHs) recently have come more and more into our focus. It has been found that these substances can appear in packaging materials made from printed or recycled paperboard or paper and may migrate into foodstuff (e.g. cornflakes, chocolate). Migration may also occur when the food product is further wrapped (e.g. by a plastic bag) inside the carton. Mineral oil-based printing inks, especially used in newspaper printing, have been identified as the main source of hydrocarbons in recycled materials (e.g. from waste paper). There is a possibility of a presence of potentially carcinogenic substances especially when printing inks contain mineral oil of the MOAH variety.

With the now adopted DIN SPEC 5010 "Testing of paper and board - Determination of the transfer of mineral oil hydrocarbons from food contact materials manufactured with portions of recycled pulp", a standardized method for the evaluation of migration from paper and paperboard has been established. In the individual case of application, it allows to make estimations about the migration of mineral oil hydrocarbons from fibre-based paper and board equipped with a barrier or another technique.

Although the standard is meant for food packaging, it may also be applied to packaging for oral or topical drug products, since these packagings should, inter alia, comply with foodstuff requirements (e.g. according to the European guideline on plastic immediate packaging materials).

Manufacturers of fibre-based paper and paperboard know the individually suitable processing conditions for their products and should share this information (e.g. on cutting and grooving requirements and possible pack design) with their customers. The user (processor) should thereby be able to perform an individual case risk evaluation of migration from the finished packaging (food contact material) based on the migration values determined according to DIN SPEC 5010 as part of their risk assessment. The measuring method can be applied to unprocessed materials (sheeted and reel material). The barrier capacity is thus assessable.

The project has been initiated by the Verband Deutscher Papierfabriken e. V. (VDP - the German Association of Paper Mills). Overall, 14 project partners from industry, research, associations (5 in total) and testing institutes have contributed to the development of DIN SPEC 5010. The project partners have spoken out in favour of publishing DIN SPEC 5010 and the possible continuation of the project on European level is currently discussed. DIN SPEC 5010 is available as free download.

Are there limits for MOSHs and MOAHs?

There is no regulation on European level so far. In Germany, there aren't any binding legal requirements, either. However, there are several drafts for changes to the "German Consumer Goods Ordinance", which regulates food contact materials:

  • The "Printing Inks Ordinance": this is to ensure, by providing a a positive list of printing colours, that only harmless print colours will be printed onto foodstuff packaging.
  • The "Mineral Oil Ordinance": this dictates the use of so-called "functional barriers" for foodstuff packaging made from waste paper: e.g. a thin layer on the paperboard, which is to prevent migration of substances to the foodstuff. The draft of 2017 defines a barrier as "functional" if the migration of MOAHs into foodstuff is below 0.5 mg/kg.

In its statement "Übergänge von Mineralöl aus Verpackungsmaterialien auf Lebensmittel" ("Migration of mineral oil from packaging materials into foodstuff"; only available in German) from 2009, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, BfR) suggests a temporary ADI (acceptable daily intake) limit of 0.01 mg/kg body weight per day for Class II / III mineral oils (mineral oils with medium or low viscosity and an average relative molecular mass <480 / <400).

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