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Mineral oil hydrocarbons: Impact on biscuits

The presence of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) is seen as a cross-contaminant issue related primarily to migration from food contact material, but also the intentional and authorized uses of certain additives contribute to the exposure to mineral oils. Another source is accidental contamination e.g.: unintentional contamination along the processing chain i.e. parts leaking lubricating oil.

Mineral oil hydrocarbons are a complex mixture of compounds which are analysed as a sum of all components as it is not possible to analyse for all individual components. Key differentiation is made between Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons (MOSH) and Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOAH).

In 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an opinion on mineral oils, which was updated in 2013. This opinion concludes that there is a potential concern associated with the exposure to MOSH and MOAH through food.

In January 2017, the European Commission (EC) has adopted the Recommendation (EU) 2017/84 on the monitoring of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in food and in materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

The Recommendation directs Member States, with the active involvement of food business operators as well as manufacturers, processors and distributors of food contact materials and other interested parties, to monitor the presence of MOHs during 2017 and 2018 in specific categories of food products, as well as those food contact materials used for those products.

“The monitoring should cover animal fat, bread and rolls, fine bakery ware, breakfast cereals, confectionery (including chocolate) and cocoa, fish meat, fish products (canned fish), grains for human consumption, ices and desserts, oilseeds, pasta, products derived from cereals, pulses, sausages, tree nuts, vegetable oils, as well as food contact materials used for those products.”

Currently, a guidance document on monitoring and testing for MOH does not exist. The Recommendation states that Member States should collaborate with European Union Reference Laboratories (EU-RL) to jointly develop a procedure identifying how the monitoring should be conducted, in order to generate reliable and comparable results. It is also from great importance that proficiency tested methods for analysing and sampling should be published shortly.

Based on the above and on the fact that the industry is committed to reducing the transfer and the occurrence of undesired mineral oil hydrocarbons in food, a “Toolbox for preventing the transfer of undesired mineral oil hydrocarbons into food” was created by the German Federation for Food Law and Food Science [1] [2] and endorsed by FoodDrinkEurope.

The prerequisites for an effective prevention are process analyses, the scale-up of findings and their strict application at industrial level.

The toolbox provides an overview of the routes of entry of mineral oil hydrocarbons – both those currently known and thought of as potential routes of entry (as per 2017).

The toolbox intends to summarise background information and provide practical support in decisionmaking. It helps every individual company to review its own processes and devise appropriate product-related measures for the reduction of contamination. As evidenced from several product tests and examinations, measures applied have so far yielded tangible results.

Important to stress, that the toolbox is publically available at FoodDrinkEurope website. We encourage all business operators to take a look at it.

Enjoy the read!

[1] Bund für Lebensmittelrecht und Lebensmittelkunde – BLL
[2] The BLL is grateful to the German Confectionery Association (BDSI) and the Food Chemical Institute (LCI) who did the fundamental research and provided the BDSI toolbox as a template.

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