Copyright unbearbeitetes Bild: iStock/ribeirorocha

Mineral oil in foods

Many everyday foods are contaminated with harmful mineral oil hydrocarbons.

What is the problem?

Rice, pasta, cereals, chocolate: many everyday foods are contaminated with harmful mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOSH and MOAH). Some of these substances accumulate in the human body, and others are potentially mutagenic and carcinogenic. One source of contamination is the recycled paper or cardboard used as food packaging. However, foods can also be contaminated during the production process. Even though the problem has been well known since the 1990s, the EU has yet to adopt regulations to prevent mineral oil contamination in food.

What is the solution?

1. Functional barriers: foodwatch is calling on the European Commission (EC) to introduce legislation requiring the use of so-called “functional barriers” (e.g. coatings, inner bags etc.) for paper and cardboard food-packaging materials in order to prevent the migration of contaminants.

2. Legal limits for MOSH and MOAH in food: Additional EC regulations are needed for establishing legal limits for MOSH and MOAH in food. These limit values must be low enough to ensure that no contamination of food with potentially carcinogenic “mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons” (MOAH) is detectable using the most advanced methods of laboratory analysis.

What is foodwatch doing?

foodwatch launched its campaign on mineral oil contamination by publishing the results of laboratory tests on 120 products from France, Germany and the Netherlands. A total of 52 products were found to be contaminated with MOAH, which can be carcinogenic. foodwatch organised an email campaign targeting the European Commission, carried out further tests, disclosed previously unpublished data from authorities and issued a public warning against eating the contaminated products when companies refused to recall them. As a result, the topic is now on the agenda of both policymakers and the industry. But a regulatory solution is still pending.