News 28.05.2020

German state laboratories find mineral oil in baby milk

  • Mineral oil in foods
dragana991 / istock

Official inspections in Germany have found contaminations of harmful mineral oils in baby milk products from Nestlé, Rossmann, Novalac and Humana. The analysis was done by the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Offices (CVUA) in Münster and Stuttgart. Federal Minister Julia Klöckner must have products from Nestlé, Rossmann, Novalac and Humana taken off the market now.

Fourteen of the samples examined in Münster contained the particularly dangerous aromatic mineral oils (MOAH), which are suspected by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA to be carcinogenic and genotoxic. In October 2019, foodwatch published a laboratory test, which had detected harmful mineral oil contamination in Nestlé and Novalac products. These official government-led investigations prove that the baby milk is still contaminated and show that products from other manufacturers are also affected.

Which products are affected?

The CVUA laboratory in Münster detected saturated mineral oils (MOSH) in all 50 samples examined and also found aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) in 14 of the 50 samples. The laboratory in Stuttgart did not find any MOAH contaminations in the 17 samples tested, but detected MOSH in 12 of the samples. In total, in the two governmental investigations that are known to foodwatch, 92 per cent of the samples tested were found to be contaminated with MOSH and 21 per cent of the samples with MOAH. Due to the level of hazard that they present to human health, MOAH should not be present even in smallest quantities in food. According to scientific studies, levels of MOSH in food should be avoided as far as possible. It is known that they accumulate in body tissues and organs, although the precise effects on human health are still unclear.

The analytical limit of quantification in the CVUA Münster method was 0,5 mg/kg MOAH (C10-C50). Therefore aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) identified by the CVUA Münster were detected in the following products:

  • Nestlé products („BEBA Pro HA 2“, „BEBA Supreme Pre, von Geburt an“, „BEBA Optipro 2“, „BEBA Optipro 1“, „BEBA Pro HA 1, von Geburt an“ und „BEBA Pro HA Pre“)
  • Novalac products („Säuglingsmilchnahrung PRE 400g“ und „BK, Blähungen und Koliken“)
  • Humana productss („SL Spezialnahrung bei Kuhmilchunverträglichkeit“ und „Anfangsmilch 1 von Geburt an“)
  • Rossmann home brand Babydream („Kinderdrink ab 1 Jahr“)

foodwatch does not have information on whether the batches of baby milk products under investigation are still on the market. In addition, there is no evidence from the manufacturers that their contaminated products are now guaranteed to be free from mineral oil, this could happen for example as a result of changes in production processes or raw material sources. On the contrary, the new laboratory findings, according to the consumer organisation, prove that the manufacturers concerned could not guarantee the safety of their products through their production processes.

Political responsibility

In 2019, foodwatch called on Ms. Julia Klöckner, the Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection to immediately remove the baby milk products contaminated with MOAH from the market and to ensure that only uncontaminated products are sold. In response Ms. Klöckner stated in a press release: "If it turns out that baby or infant milk could harm the health of our youngest, the products must not end up in the supermarket." Well it turns out that this is the case - the confirmation is now here and very clear.

Ms. Klöckner can no longer ignore the results of the test. She must now ensure, in accordance with the European precautionary principle, that baby milk contaminated with mineral oil is immediately removed from the market and that contaminated products can no longer enter the market.
Martin Rücker Managing director of foodwatch Germany

Withholding public records

While foodwatch only received the official investigation results after a lengthy formal application procedure, the Klöckner Ministry was already aware of the first results of government analyses of the baby milk products at the beginning of December 2019. This is clearly stated in the ministry's response to a written question by Amira Mohamed Ali, member of the German Bundestag, dated December 10, 2019. Neither the Ministry itself nor any other authority concerned, released the results from the official tests, which showed in which baby products the health-endangering substances were detected. Instead, the Klöckner Ministry emphasised in its reply that Nestlé Germany could not find any aromatic mineral oils during its own internal testing procedures". 

The fact that the federal government puts the business interests of Nestlé & Co. above the health protection of babies is a scandal."
Martin Rücker Managing director of foodwatch Germany

Detection of mineral oils 

In 2019, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the EU, released guidelines on the detection of mineral oils in food. The publication by foodwatch in October 2019, which was based on the specifications of the JRC guidelines, revealed significant differences in the analytical methods used by authorities and industry. Mineral oil contamination could therefore in some cases not be determined or only with higher detection limits. Baby milk powder is one of the most difficult foods to analyse. The differences in the results of the MOAH detection in the CVUA labs in Münster and Stuttgart attributes to the factors mentioned above as well as possible batch differences for products with the same name.

In October 2019, foodwatch published its findings of mineral oil contamination in the Nestlé products "Beba Optipro Pre, 800g, from birth" and "Beba Optipro 1, 800g, from birth" as well as in the Novalac "Infant Milk Pre, 400g". This resulted in government led investigations of baby milk products throughout Europe, the results of which have still not been made public by the authorities. 

Zero tolerance for aromatic mineral oils in food

In terms of quantity, mineral oils are one of the largest contaminants in the human body. Sources of mineral oil contamination can be from the machines and procedures used during harvesting and processing of food, or also from food packaging. foodwatch demands that EU-wide safety limits for mineral oils be set. Zero tolerance must apply to aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) - i.e. using the currently technically achievable limit of quantification of 0.5 mg/kg MOAH total, NO detection in the foodstuff should be allowed. The German Government has so far failed to follow up on its word - there are still no regulations in place to limit mineral oils and to protect consumers.