Processing Magazine

Nestlé launches project to deal with food contact chemicals in packaging

March 4, 2013

In a bid to deal with some of the challenges it faces with recycling, Nestlé is launching a project that aims to tackle food contact chemicals in recycled packaging, the company's head of packaging Anne Roulin has announced.

Speaking to FoodProductionDaily.com, she explained that Nestlé is actively working with partners from all levels of the supply chain to prevent recycled materials from getting in direct contact with food. The project was developed after concerns were raised about the potential dangers of migration. Recycled packaging that is used in the food and drink industry contains a mixture of chemicals in the form of coating, some of which can migrate to the food or drink product.

Several independent studies have signaled that those coatings might have adverse health effects and have linked such materials to increased risks of developing cancer or contributing to organ failure. Although the majority of scientists believe that there is no immediate cause for concern because this migration happens in minute quantities that could not possibly harm human health, others claim that it is difficult to assess what amounts of these chemicals recycled packaging contains. This is the main reason why Nestlé decided to start the project and deal with the potential risks as a precaution, Roulin explained.

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The project is seen as another aspect of Nestlé's ongoing commitment to sustainability. Its comprehensive life cycle assessment tool ECODEX has been rolling out as scheduled, Roulin noted. The software tool first became available in November and will continue to roll out over the whole of 2013. ECODEX covers the entire life cycle, starting from agriculture, through packaging, distribution, retail and consumer use, and focuses on six major areas that Nestlé prioritizes: greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, non-renewable energy and minerals, impact on the ecosphere and land use. By monitoring these six aspects of the whole life cycle the company can get an accurate and balanced assessment, Roulin pointed out.

Meanwhile, Nestlé has had to deal with a reputation blow as the company was hit by the ongoing horsemeat scandal, after its traces of horse DNA were discovered in some of its products. The discovery led to two chilled pasta products being recalled from the Spanish and Italian markets: Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini. Nestlé announced that the beef used in the items was supplied by German company H.J. Schypke and added that it was suspending deliveries of all finished products which contain beef supplied by the same company.

Nestlé found that the two products contained horse DNA levels above the 1 percent mark set by the British Food Safety Agency to indicate possible adulteration, which led to the company voluntarily recalling the products from sale and informing the authorities.