EU panel re-examines health risks of mineral oil hydrocarbons in food


On March 15, 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opened a public consultation on a draft opinion update of the risk assessment of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in food. The consultation is open for comments until April 30, 2023. The submitted document re-evaluates the toxicity of MOHs, the dietary exposure to European citizens, as well as a final assessment of the health risks to the EU population.

MOHs are intentionally used as additives in many different types of food contact materials (FCMs), such as plastics, adhesives, rubber articles, board, and printing inks. In food processing or the manufacture of FCMs, MOHs are additionally applied as lubricants, cleaning, or non-stick agents. Non-intentional contamination of packaging and environmental pollution present additional possible sources of MOHs in food. Whether used intentionally or not, MOHs can migrate into foodstuff from food contact materials (FCMs) during processing and from food packaging. Food packaging made from recycled paper and board is especially likely to contain MOHs (see FCCmigex), mainly due to the use of non-food grade newspaper inks.

The responsible EFSA panel states that a subgroup of MOHs, the mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAHs), pose a risk of damaging cells and causing cancer. In addition, due to the lack of a better understanding of the toxicity of certain MOAHs, human health concerns were raised (FPF reported).

The other subgroup of MOHs, the mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSHs) were not classified as a health concern according to the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (Contam). While experiments done on rats have shown adverse effects, it was concluded that the specific rat species are not an appropriate model to test for human health concerns.

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Food Packaging Forum, 30-03-23