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Environmental connections to public health >>

Cereal boxes are for reading, not eating

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Did you hear about Kellogg's voluntary recall of its super sugary cereals? Picture this: 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Honey (used to be "Sugar") Smacks, Apple Jacks, (used to be "Sugar") Corn Pops, Froot Loops. Yum.

While healthy eaters everywhere may think it's the product itself being recalled, it was, in fact, the packaging.

Say what??

Yes, the cereal packaging is making people sick (nausea and diarrhea) and, oddly enough, Kelloggs doesn't know what exactly in the packaging is causing it. They did say that it's nothing that isn't approved to be there. Which is hardly reassuring.

Here's what incomplete info Kellogg's has to share about its voluntary recall (from the FDA recall page):

"...due to an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner in the package. While the potential for serious health problems is low, some consumers are sensitive to the uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell and should not eat the recalled products because of possible temporary symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea."

Seems likely that "some consumers" are actually sensitive to the cause of the off-flavor and smell, not the "off" flavors and tastes. Off, indeed.

So what IS in the packaging? Dunno. And Kellogg's doesn't seem to know, either:

"Our chemistry team is working to isolate the exact substance," said spokeswoman Adaire Putnam. "At this time, we know it's a wax-like compound that can produce an uncharacteristic off-taste and smell."

"Package leaching" is nothing new We're not all that surprised by the fact that food packaging contains chemicals that wind up in your food (we blogged about food packaging chemicals that leach back in 2009). We look forward to learning what specific packaging ingredient is the culprit this time.

For some background on "packaging leachables," (yes, it's common enough to have a name), check out this 2009 article in Chemical & Engineering News. Get this:

"Even when the wrapping comes off, you inevitably ingest some of the container. Speak with anyone who produces, studies, or regulates packaging, and you will hear this point repeated: It is not a question of whether packaging components will leach into a product, it's a question of how much."

Well that's just great, isn't it? For breakfast I just want to eat my cereal, thanks - NOT the box.

[Thanks to Flickr CC & Paige Kaitlyn for the appetizing Froot Loop pic]

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