A case study using virgin and recycled paperboard shows that untargeted analysis of potential migrants at toxicologically relevant levels is not trivial (Biederman and Grob, 2013). The study published in the peer-reviewed scientific Journal of Chromatography A and conducted by analytical chemists from an official Swiss enforcement lab aimed at exploring currently available methods for comprehensive chemical analysis of potential migrants from recycled and virgin paperboard intended for food contact. The safety of food contact materials (FCMs) is commonly determined based on migration levels of individual substances. Therefore, the identity of all chemicals that can migrate needs to be established. In the special case of recycled paperboard not all substances that are present in the FCM are known. Also they are not necessarily approved for food contact use because the recycled material may come from other, non-food uses. Hence a comprehensive identification of all potential migrants is necessary to carry out a safety assessment of the FCM. In reality this is limited by practicalities. For example, unknown substances can be lost during sample preparation and detection limits may not allow for identification of compounds present below achievable detection thresholds. In their recent article, Biedermann and Grob discuss these limitations in detail and explain what can and cannot be achieved using contemporary chemical analysis. Detailed results from this study (actually identified chemicals) will be published in a separate forthcoming article.

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Biedermann, M. and K. Grob (2013) “Is comprehensive analysis of potentially relevant migrants from recycled paperboard into food feasible?” Journal of Chromatography A, 1272: 106-115