Press Release 28.05.2020

State laboratories in Germany find mineral oil contamination in baby milk powder - foodwatch: Federal Minister Julia Klöckner must have products from Nestlé, Novalac and Humana taken off the market.

  • Mineral oil in foods

Translation from German

Berlin, 28 May 2020: Infant milk products from Nestlé, Rossmann, Novalac and Humana have been found to be contaminated with harmful mineral oils during official inspections. This was confirmed by laboratory analyses from the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Offices (CVUA) in Münster and Stuttgart, published on Thursday by the consumer organisation foodwatch. 

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. 

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," explained Martin Rücker, Managing Director of foodwatch Germany.

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 danger 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 MOSH accumulate in body tissues and organs, although the precise effects on human health are still unclear. 

The aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) identified by the CVUA Münster were detected in eleven different products available on the German market. Six 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” and "BEBA Pro HA Pre"); two products each from the manufacturers Novalac “Säuglingsmilchnahrung PRE 400g“ and “BK, Blähungen und Koliken” and Humana "SL Spezialnahrung bei Kuhmilchunverträglichkeit“ and „Anfangsmilch 1 von Geburt an”; as well as in a product of Rossmann's own brand Babydream "Kinderdrink ab 1 Jahr”. The analytical level of quantification in the CVUA Münster method was 0.5 mg/kg MOAH (C10-C50). 

foodwatch does not have information on whether the batches of baby milk products under investigation are still on the market or not. In addition, there is no evidence that there have been changes in production processes or raw material sources or any other measures on the side of  the manufacturers that could now ensure that their products are guaranteed to be free from mineral oils. On the contrary, the new laboratory findings, according to the consumer organisation, prove that the manufacturers concerned still cannot guarantee the safety of their products.

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". 

"Julia Klöckner has concealed official test results and omitted to warn parents and carers about baby products that are hazardous to health. Instead, her Ministry spoke only of Nestlé's allegedly negative internal testing results," criticized Martin Rücker. "The fact that the federal government puts the business interests of Nestlé & Co. above protecting the health of babies and infants is a scandal." 

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 and that not every laboratory meets the standards as set out in the guidelines. In some cases this can have false negative results and the mineral oil contamination is not determined even though it is present. Baby milk powder is one of the most difficult foods to analyse. foodwatch attributes the differences in the results of the MOAH detection in the CVUA labs in Münster and Stuttgart 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, von Geburt an" and "Beba Optipro 1, 800g, von Geburt an" as well as in the Novalac "Säuglingsmilchnahrung 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. 

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 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.