FAQ

Frequently asked qestions: Mineral oil in babymilk

Test results France

Product name

Batch number

Expiration date

MOSH/POSH (C10-C50)

MOAH  (C10-C50)  

Nestlé Nidal Lait en poudre 1er âge

90720346AC

01.03.2021

5,8 mg/kg

1,2 mg/kg

Nestlé Guigoz Lait bébé en poudre 1 bio

90650017C3

01.09.2020

n.d.

n.d.

Lactalis Célia Lait bébé en poudre 2

8000000047

24.09.2020

2,3 mg/kg

n.d.

Lactalis Célia Lait bébé en poudre 1 bio

8000000411

30.04.2020

0,8 mg/kg

n.d.

Vitagermine Baby bioOptima 2

2VT21974

10.02.2021

1,1 mg/kg

n.d.

Hipp Lait pour nourrissons Combiotic 1

1424990

23.12.2019

0,5 mg/kg

n.d.

Danone Blédina Blédilait Croissance + 3

2021.01.27.26

27.01.2021

0,7 mg/kg

n.d.

Danone Gallia Galliagest Croissance 3 Sans lactose

905764 (019079)

19.12.2019

4,0 mg/kg

0,7 mg/kg

Test results  Germany

Product name

Batch number

Expiration date

MOSH/POSH (C10-C50)

MOAH (C10-C50)  

Novalac Säuglingsmilchnahrung PRE 400g

A59522 75

11.03.2020

3,8 mg/kg

0,5 mg/kg

Nestlé BEBA OPTIPRO PRE 800 g von Geburt an

91120346AA

10/2020

8,4 mg/kg

3,0 mg/kg

Nestlé BEBA OPTIPRO 1 800 g  von Geburt an

9098080621

10/2020

5,8 mg/kg

1,9 mg/kg

Nestlé BEBA OPTIPRO 3 800 g ab dem 10. Monat

9108080626

10/2020

1,9 mg/kg

n.d.

Test results Netherlands

Product name

Batch number

Expiration date

MOSH/POSH (C10-C50)

MOAH  (C10-C50)  

Neolac Biooogisch 1 Volledige zuigenlingenvoeding 0-6 m

11620

15.01.2021

4,3 mg/kg

1,6 mg/kg

Hero Baby nutrasense hypo-allergeen 0-6 maanden

80926-023

26.09.2020

4,1 mg/kg

0,8 mg/kg

Nutrilon Dieetvoeding bij koemelkallergie 1    0-6 maanden

907222 41

22.08.2020

6,1 mg/kg

1,2 mg/kg

Ah zuigelingenmelk 1 STANDAARD    0-6 maanden

30397033

15.04.2021

3,4 mg/kg

n.d.

Notes: 
Method: Online-LC/GC-FID; 
MOSH: Saponification of sample, cleanup step, removal of natural alkanes with Aluminiumoxide; 
MOAH: Saponification, cleanup step and removal of di- and triglycerides after epoxidation  
Results calculated to lower bound theory
n.d.= not detected below Limit of Quantification (LOQ) with 0.5 mg/kg 

 

In order to ensure that product testing has the highest possible accuracy, repeatability and reliability, foodwatch has commissioned several laboratories accredited according to DIN EN ISO/IEC17025 to carry out the testing.

The analytical method chosen by foodwatch has been classified as the method of choice by the EU Commission in its "Guidance on sampling, analysis and data reporting for the monitoring of mineral oil hydrocarbons in food and food contact materials" published in February 2019: 

“The combination of LC, which separates MOSH from MOAH, and GC-FID for quantification allows for an appropriate determination of the MOSH and MOAH content. In the GC-FID chromatograms of the MOSH and MOAH fractions, further fractions can be defined based on the retention time of the corresponding n-alkanes under the same chromatographic conditions. It has been decided in agreement with EFSA to collect data for mineral oils up to n-C50 atoms in their molecules in order to reflect the composition of some lubricant oil with heavier oil fractions.”  

The products in which the MOAH mineral oil constituents suspected of being carcinogenic were found have been tested independently by three different laboratories.  For this purpose, these products were tested for so-called ‘markers’, i.e. reference substances on (or from?) mineral oil sources, using special, technically complex detection methods.

A higher degree of assurance of the results can hardly be achieved according due to the good laboratory practice and analysis technology. 

Mineral oils are found in many areas of the human environment. They have already been found - among others by foodwatch - in numerous foods such as rice, pasta, chocolate and edible oils, but can also be found in packaging, children's toys, animal feed and cosmetics . 

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), different groups of mineral oils - MOSH and MOAH - have different toxicological potential.  

Given the genotoxic and mutagenic nature demonstrated for certain MOAHs, the French Food Safety Authority (ANSES)  believes that priority should be given to reducing the contamination of food by these compounds. ANSES recommends limiting consumer exposure to MOHs, and to MOAHs in particular, by acting initially on the main sources of mineral oils in paper and cardboard packaging. ANSES recommends the use of barriers to limit the migration of MOHs from packaging into foods. 

The intake of MOAH should generally be avoided as "a possible carcinogenic potential [...] cannot be excluded" . In addition, since no toxicological data are available for evaluation so far, no tolerable intake has been derived to date. A final risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is still pending. 

MOSH can be easily absorbed by the body and accumulate in fatty tissue. In experiments with rats, these caused damage in certain organs. Depending on the number of carbon atoms (chain length) and toughness (viscosity), MOSH can be enriched in organs of the human body, some fractions are considered by EFSA to be of concern. However, only MOSH with a chain length greater than 16 carbon atoms (C16) are enriched in the body. 

In January 2017, the EU Commission decided to monitor "mineral oil hydrocarbons in foodstuffs and materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs". The resulting data, most probably not available before 2020, will then be made used by EFSA for evaluation.   

In July 2019 a study by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) was published which evaluates new toxicological data and links them to consumption data. The RIVM does not consider the dietary exposure of the Dutch population to MOSH to be a health concern. But the exposure to MOAH is seen problematic by the RIVM, because among them are substances with carcinogenic effects. However, not all mineral oils containing MOAH are considered to be carcinogenic. Therefore, a distinction must be made concerning the origins of MOAH. Those containing potentially carcinogenic MOAH compounds should be minimized, for example crude oils and heated oils.

There are sources of possible contamination in the entire production chain of baby milk products. It is therefore difficult to identify the exact causes on the basis of laboratory test results alone.

However, the packaging may also lead to contamination under certain circumstances. It is possible that so-called rolling oils (‘rolling oils’ are used to cool and lubricate the rolls between which the metal sheets are thinly rolled out) may have been used in the production of the metal-cans, which may not be suitable for contact with food and contain the proven MOAH and MOSH mineral oil components. If the metal sheets or the finished cans have not been cleaned properly, these mineral oil components may have migrated from the inside of the cans to the milk powder.
 

See column “Batch number” in table in question one: In which products was mineral oil found?

foodwatch has no information on other batches than the ones tested.  However, we assume that one possible source of the mineral oils in the product is in the packaging - this could mean that other batches are also affected. The problem is well known among experts. foodwatch therefore recommends, as a precaution, not to use substitute milk from brands found in our laboratory tests to be contaminated with MOAH and/or heavily contaminated with MOSH. 

foodwatch cannot make any statement as to whether baby milks in other packaging (e.g. cardboard or plastic or aluminium-cardboard-composite material etc.) are free of MOAH. 
foodwatch calls on all manufacturers of replacement milk for babies to:

  • immediately recall publicly and remove contaminated products from the market; 
  • immediately publish laboratory results that show whether their replacement milks are unpolluted or polluted with MOAH;
  • prevent any contamination with MOAH mineral oil components suspected of being carcinogenic;
  • make a public commitment to sell only food products which do not contain any detectable MOAH and a maximum of 2mg/kg of MOSH.
     

Products that have shown no contamination with MOAH in our laboratory tests and no or only minor contamination with MOSH are a safer choice. But it is not a guarantee that all batches of those products are free of mineral oil. Only when all manufacturers have published appropriate laboratory evidence of their products can the risk of contamination with MOAH and/or MOSH be completely excluded.

foodwatch recommends that contaminated products no longer be used for babies. Ask the manufacturers for proof that the product is free from aromatic mineral oil components (MOAH) of the substitute milk and let us know their answers (you can write an email to info(at)foodwatch(dot)international).

foodwatch cannot answer this question with certainty for all products on the market, because we do not have any laboratory data available except for the ones we tested. However, our findings, confirmed by our published laboratory findings, indicate that mineral oil contamination is not uncommon in baby milk products packaged in tin cans – as 50 Percent of the products tested showed MOAH contamination. 

foodwatch calls on all manufacturers of replacement milk for babies to:

  • immediately recall publicly and remove contaminated products from the market; 
  • immediately publish laboratory results that show whether their replacement milks are unpolluted or polluted with MOAH; 
  • prevent any contamination with MOAH mineral oil components suspected of being carcinogenic;
  • make a public commitment to sell only food products which do not contain any detectable MOAH and a maximum of 2mg/kg of MOSH.
     

The degree of MOAH we found in the baby milk products cannot cause acute symptoms of illness and paediatricians will not be able to detect the contamination in the baby’s body. 

But in order to avoid the risk of any later illness and for precautionary reasons we advise you to refrain from using MOAH-contaminated replacement milks. 
 

foodwatch cannot answer this question completely. Whether the packaging materials as a possible source of mineral oils differ in their composition or production or treatment, or whether the cans come from different manufacturers, is beyond our knowledge. Nor can we say with any certainty whether the mineral oils originate from the packaging or another source. foodwatch cannot guarantee that other batches of the products which showed up clear in our test may contain impurities with mineral oils. 

In any case, 50 percent of the baby milks tested by us and packaged in metal cans were contaminated. For precautionary reasons, we currently do not recommend buying substitute milk in tin cans. While in France many products are packed in metal cans, in Germany and the Netherlands there are significantly fewer baby milk products in metal cans. It is the responsibility of all manufacturers to prove that their products are not contaminated. 

foodwatch calls on all manufacturers of replacement milk for babies to:

  • immediately recall publicly and remove contaminated products from the market; 
  • immediately publish laboratory results that show whether their replacement milks are unpolluted or polluted with MOAH; 
  • prevent any contamination with MOAH mineral oil components suspected of being carcinogenic;
  • make a public commitment to sell only food products which do not contain any detectable MOAH and a maximum of 2mg/kg of MOSH.
     

No, not yet. 

The scientific discussion about the level of danger of certain mineral oil fractions has been going on intensively for several years. So far, however, there is not even a limit value for exposure to mineral oils.

Mineral oils are found in many areas of the human environment. They have already been found - among others by foodwatch - in numerous foods such as rice, pasta, chocolate and edible oils, but can also be found in packaging, children's toys, animal feed and cosmetics.

MOAH:

There is agreement that aromatic mineral oil compounds (so-called MOAH) can cause cancer if the molecules consist of more than two ring systems. Therefore, such MOAH are undesirable and should not be present in foodstuffs according to the competent authorities (EFSA, ANSES, BfR, RIVM).  In France, given the genotoxic and mutagenic nature demonstrated for certain MOAHs, ANSES believes that priority should be given to reducing the contamination of food by these compounds. 

There is ongoing discussion as to whether there are toxicological differences between 1-to-2 ring systems and the more-than-3 ring systems of MOAH. However, there are no analytical methods from either the manufacturer or the scientific side that allow differentiation according to the ring systems in food. 

Therefore, any detection of MOAH in food is currently questionable from foodwatch's point of view in terms of consumer health protection. The sale of such products is unacceptable. 

foodwatch calls on manufacturers: 

  • to recall such products from the market immediately. In particular with milk substitute products for babies there can be no justification for further sale.

For four years now, foodwatch has been calling on European legislators and national governments to legally set maximum levels for the detection of mineral oils in foodstuffs. For aromatic mineral oils suspected of causing cancer, we demand setting the slightest detection of MOAH should be the maximum value. 

In other words: 

Any trace of the existence of MOAH identified in food should mean that the product is not marketable and therefore must not be sold. It must be the responsibility of every manufacturer and retailer to ensure and to be able to prove at any time that there are NO carcinogenic MOAH detectable in the food products.

MOSH:

In the case of aliphatic mineral oils (MOSH), foodwatch demands - also in accordance with the scientific discussion - the setting of strict maximum values and continuous minimisation. The maximum value of 2 milligrams MOSH per kilogram of food should only be exceeded in precisely defined exceptional cases for certain food categories (e.g. vegetable oils and fats) with corresponding proof from the manufacturer.

The European Commission started an EU-wide monitoring programme in January 2017, but no results have been published on this programme to date. The aim is to generate a broad database in order to derive maximum values. The monitoring programme has been started late and, contrary to what the European Commission originally intended, will not be completed in October 2019.

The problem of contamination of food with mineral oil components has been known for many years. Most recently, the focus was on analysing and preventing the migration of mineral oil components from recycled cardboard packaging into food. In addition, various ways of introducing mineral oils into the food chain during harvesting, raw material transport and production processes were investigated. In the case of vegetable foods, progress has been made in various areas. There is little or no data available on food of animal origin. This also applies to the replacement milks for babies examined by foodwatch.

Nevertheless, foodwatch assumes that the major manufacturers are particularly aware of the problem of mineral oil contamination of their products. To what extent these manufacturers were aware of the contamination of their baby milk products is beyond our knowledge.

Now, with the publication of our test results, all manufacturers are obliged to stop producing and delivering baby milk products containing MOAH. Existing products must be removed from sale immediately. 

In addition, foodwatch will continue to  campaign for companies’ commitment and a European Regulation that ensures that ALL food products have: 

  • no detectable (carcinogenic) MOAH 
  • a maximum of 2mg/kg of MOSH

Several major retailers have already made such a commitment following the first test results published by foodwatch in 2015. However, we are still waiting for similar commitments from the rest of the retailers and the food companies such as Nestlé. Commitments on a voluntary basis are insufficient. foodwatch asks for urgent legislation at the European level in order to protect all European consumers. 

There is no reason to wait any longer. This is a matter of public health.