M-real increases primary boxboard capacity on mineral oil migration concerns

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Food Food standards agency European food safety authority

Production at Simpele plant, Finland
Production at Simpele plant, Finland
Rising concern from leading food brand owners over the safety of mineral oil migration from recycled material has been a major driver in M-real’s decision to boost its folding boxboard capacity by 20 per cent by early next year, said the company.

The company announced Friday that extra capacity of 80,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) would be coming on-stream after the completion of the overhaul at its Simpele mill in Finland last week. The €26m invested at the plant will increase production capacity to 300,000 tpa and sheeting capacity by 40,000 to 230,000 tpa.

The additional output is primarily aimed at meeting increasing demand from the food sector, particularly tea, cereals, bakery products, chocolate, confectionery and frozen foods, said the firm.

A further 70,000 tonnes per annum would also be added within 12 months at two more mills, vowed M-real, swelling its current capacity from 750,000 tpa to 935,000 tpa.

Brand owner concerns

“Demand for our primary fibre boards has been excellent, due not only to their high performance and sustainability, but also due to rising concern over product safety,”​ Mika Joukio, senior vice president of M-real consumer packaging told FoodProductionDaily.com.

He added: “Issues surrounding mineral oil migration from recycled board was a significant factor in this decision as the level of concern from major international brand owners in the food industry is high. There has been an ongoing switch from recycled to primary board - but the problem until now has been limited supply.”

Joukio said that the rebuild at Simpele would be enhanced by similar projects at plants that would see the company enhance output in two phases.

Capacity at the Kyro facility would be increased by 40,000 tpa in November 2011, while 30,000 tpa would be added at Äänekoski in spring 2012.

M-real said the moves were part of a €100m investment programme in its consumer packaging operations between 2010 1and 2012. Other projects are investment in its Kemiart Liners mill and in the construction of a bio power plant at Kyro.

Mineral oil migration research

Health concerns over mineral oil migration are based on two studies by the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich in 2010.

The first paper highlighted the inclusion of newsprint in recycled paper and board as the main source of the mineral oil and migration at fairly high levels.

The second study analysed 119 samples of dry food packed in paperboard boxes for migration of mineral oil. Mineral hydrocarbons were again found in all foods packed either without an inner plastic bag, or with a polyethylene bag. Levels of saturated hydrocarbons ranged from 4 to 28 mg/kg and aromatic hydrocarbons from 0.7 to 6.1 mg/kg depending on the food type and time in contact.

However, the methods employed by the Swiss scientists have yet to be fully accepted by other authorities. The German federal risk assessment body said there is cause for concern, while the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it was not aware of firm evidence confirming the risk. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently examining the issue as part of its ongoing review of non-plastic food contact materials and is due to deliver an opinion later this year.

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