Press Release 22.06.2020

Mineral oil in baby milk products: foodwatch demands official lab results to be released

  • Mineral oil in foods

Brussels, 22 June 2020: In light of recently published state lab results from Germany, which have confirmed the presence of carcinogenic mineral oils in baby milk products, consumer NGO foodwatch International calls on the member states and the European Commission to publish other existing test reports by state authorities across Europe. 

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed Section Novel Food and Toxicological Safety of the Food Chain (SCoPAFF) will once again look into the issue of mineral oil in baby milk products at its meeting on 23 June 2020. While decisions and transparency are delayed meeting after meeting, babies are still being put at risk, foodwatch says. Putting business interests of Nestlé, Danone & Co. above protecting the health of infants was absolutely unacceptable. 

“We know that other tests have taken place and that the Commission has seen tests from France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg,” said Matthias Wolfschmidt, Strategy Director of foodwatch international, “however despite our requests to the European Commission to make them public, the test results remain a secret and the contaminated baby milk products remain on the market.”

In an email to foodwatch dated June 5th the DG SANTE clearly stated that the presence of aromatic mineral oils (MOAH), which are suspected by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA to be carcinogenic and genotoxic, has been confirmed by official controls by different Member States to be present in infant formula. The concentrations of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) was in the range of 0.9 to 3.5 mg/kg. EFSA concluded that the estimated exposure for infants is of concern for human health, considering the possible presence of 3-7 ring polycyclic aromatic compounds (3-7 PAC) in the MOAH.

End of May, foodwatch reported on infant milk products from Nestlé, Rossmann, Novalac and Humana which have been found to be contaminated with harmful mineral oils during official analyses from the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Offices (CVUA) in Münster and Stuttgart. Already in October 2019, foodwatch published a laboratory test, which had detected dangerous mineral oils MOAH in Nestlé and Novalac products. The recently published official government-led investigations prove that baby milk is still contaminated and show that products from other manufacturers are also affected. 

While foodwatch only received the lab results from Germany after a lengthy formal application procedure, the European Commission, like the German Ministry, has been aware of the results for several months. "Our public bodies are concealing official test results and failing to warn parents and carers about these baby milk products that are hazardous to health.” criticised Matthias Wolfschmidt. "The fact that the European Commission puts the business interests of Nestlé & Co. above protecting the health of babies and infants is absolutely unacceptable." 

foodwatch urged the SCoPAFF experts to disclose the scientific evidence that smaller molecules in MOAH, the 1-2 ring systems are not of toxicological concern. If this cannot be scientifically proven, then this substance group must not be ignored in the risk assessment.

Even with respect to the analytical challenges of infant formula, product safety must be the overriding criterion. Therefore it is essential to rapidly apply and implement across the EU the highest standards available in laboratory technology and analytical quality. As for the time being there is no analysis available to cover the 3-7 ring systems, the detection of MOAH in any foodstuff must automatically and rapidly lead to a public warning and product recall. 

“We have not seen a common risk management approach which prioritises consumer’s health, neither on EU level nor in the Member States. Action by European and national authorities to address the health hazards of MOAH and MOSH in all foods with the appropriate seriousness and emphasis is long overdue”, said Matthias Wolfschmidt.

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 level of quantification of 0.5 mg/kg MOAH total, no detection in foodstuff should be allowed.