Press Release 09.12.2021

Toxic mineral oil found in food products in several European countries – foodwatch: EU has to put in place a zero-tolerance rule!

  • Mineral oil in foods
  • Laboratory tests show that products contaminated with toxic aromatic mineral oil (MOAH) are still on the shelves across Europe.  
  • foodwatch demands a zero-tolerance rule for MOAH contamination in all food categories across the EU.
  • Among others Knorr stock cubes and Lindt chocolates were tested positive.

+++ Report with all test results: +++

Amsterdam/Berlin/Brussels/Paris/Vienna, December 9, 2021: Many food products sold in Europe including stock cubes, chocolate and spreads are contaminated with dangerous aromatic mineral oils, reveals a lab test by foodwatch. The international consumer organisation published today new test results of 152 products from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, carried out by two different accredited laboratories: one in eight food products tested are contaminated. The consumer organisation demanded an immediate EU-wide recall of all products tested positive and urged the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, and the decision makers of the EU Member States to protect all consumers by adopting a zero-tolerance rule for MOAH contamination in all food categories across the EU. Aromatic mineral oils, so called MOAH, are toxic contaminants suspected to be carcinogenic and genotoxic.

"The European Commission, the European Council and the entire food industry have known about the dangers of MOAH in food for many years. It is scandalous that the EU, which always stresses the importance of consumer health, has still not eliminated this avoidable and absolutely unnecessary health hazard," said Matthias Wolfschmidt, Strategy Director at foodwatch International. Referring to the General Food Law (EC 178/2002) and its article 14 on food safety requirements, which states that “food shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe”, foodwatch demanded urgent action now. The consumer organisation launched an online-petition to the EU Commission and Member States at:  

"Although the German food industry has made a commitment to the authorities to supply MOAH-free products, this happens in many cases, but not in all. Therefore, the EU must finally and as soon as possible anchor a MOAH zero tolerance for all food categories in the EU contaminant law," said Matthias Wolfschmidt of foodwatch International.

152 products tested
It is already the third time, that foodwatch has proven, through laboratory tests, that products are contaminated with MOAH. However many products remain on the shelves in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and probably many more European countries. A total of 19 products (12.5 percent) were found to contain mineral oil residues. Contamination levels ranged from 0.63 mg per kilo in one product to 82 mg/kg in the other. Unilever's Knorr stock cubes for example were identified as highly contaminated with MOAH in several different batches in the five countries. Several other products were also tested positive on MOAH. One batch of Nutella, sold in Germany, was contaminated with 2.3 mg/kg MOAH, whilst in other batches MOAH was undetectable.

The first test on mineral oil was published by the consumer organisation in 2015. In November 2019, foodwatch published a laboratory test, which had detected dangerous mineral oils MOAH in several infant milk products, including products from Nestlé, Danone and Novalac. As a result, the European Commission and the Member States, decided in June 2020 to establish a threshold at 1 mg/kg of MOAH presence in baby milk powders. But according to foodwatch this decision is inadequate to protect all consumers in Europe, as demonstrated once more by the results of a new series of tests carried out by the organisation on a broad range of food products: MOAHs are ubiquitous in our foods.

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. 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 petition: