Posts Tagged dangers of newspaper ink

Are there dangers in recycling paper?

In my part of the world, many years ago, a bag of chips did not look like this.

When I was a child the “bag of chips” or the “fish supper”  was a particular favourite meal while on holiday in one of the fairly local “holiday resorts.” It involved going into the local fish and chip shop on a warm summer evening and buying anything ranging from a threepenny bag of chips to a full blown fish supper which generally consisted of haddock deep fried in thick batter with a generous helping of  potatoes cut on site into chunky chips and also deep fried. “Deep fried” in these days always meant beef “dripping” rather than the healthier vegetable oils.  A couple of pickled onions may have been added but that was about it.  In these days the “chippies” just sold fish and chips … there were no chicken suppers or pizzas or deep fried Mars Bars then.

What was interesting was the way these fish suppers were wrapped. Take chips. They would have been placed in a paper bag of appropriate size according to the price paid. The threepenny bags were tiny. The shilling bags were huge. The chips were filled to the brim and flowing over so they had to have an outer wrapping too. This is where old newspapers came into play – there would be a thick pile of newspaper behind the counter of every chip shop and the brimming over paper bags would be wrapped firstly in a thin liner of white paper which almost certainly was not from a recycled source. The whole bundle was then wrapped in very thick layer of newspapers to stop fingers being being burned and to keep the goodies inside warm for as long as possible.

Whole families would walk along the promenades, each member clutching a newspaper bag of chips, opened at one end and happily munching away as they walked.

Blissful, simple, holiday memories.

Some people recycled their newspapers by dumping bundles of them into their local “Chippie” where they would be put to good use.

Then, some way along the line, they stopped wrapping chips and fish suppers in newspaper.

I’ve no idea the reason for this.  Was the reason cosmetic as society became more sophisticated? Or was there a health hazard?

The BBC today reports that there may be a health danger in using recycled newspapers in food packaging.



“Leading food manufacturers are changing their packaging because of health concerns about boxes made from recycled cardboard, the BBC has learned.

Researchers found toxic chemicals from recycled newspapers have contaminated food sold in many cardboard cartons.

The chemicals, known as mineral oils, come from printing inks.

Cereal firm Jordans has stopped using recycled cardboard and other firms are to ensure their recycled packaging does not contain any toxic oils.

Kellogg’s and Weetabix said they were taking steps to reduce the amount of mineral oil in their packaging.

It would be interesting to know if fish and chip shops discontinued using newspaper all these years ago for health and safety reason. If so, what were they?

It would also be interesting to know how long it has been known that newspaper ink contained substances that might be damaging to health.

If all of this was already known, then why, oh why, did no-one make the connection of a possible hazard between recycled packaging containing ink chemicals and contamination of food long before now?

And why can’t the BBC and other media put links to the original source of their material so members of the public can analyse the importance or otherwise of the research for themselves if they are so inclined? We have no way of knowing whether this is a valid concern or scaremongering because we cannot easily access the original work.

It is important to understand whether this work is valid because the chemicals will be cumulative. Newspapers contain ink, more ink is added to the recycled packaging. The packaging is recycled….more ink is added to the “new” packaging and so it goes on for ever and ever……..


NHS Choices has produced a review that examines the current state of knowledge on this issue:


‘Much further research is needed before it is known what level of mineral oil could pose a potential health risk.”

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