Mineral oil hydrocarbons in food: EFSA draft scientific opinion open for public consultation

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Unit on Feed and Contaminants has just opened the public consultation for its draft scientific opinion on mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in food, which updates its previous risk assessment on the topic.  

This document presents a re-evaluation of the toxicity of MOH, the assessment of dietary exposure of European citizens and, based on these, the assessment of the health risks to the EU population.    

MOH comprise a wide range of chemical compounds obtained mostly from petroleum distillation and refining. MOH are divided in Saturated (MOSH) and Aromatic (MOAH) hydrocarbons.  

For now, EFSA experts concluded that MOSH do not pose a health concern for humans, while MOAH could be a health concern.  

Experts looked at two different types of MOAH, concluding for one that it may contain genotoxic substances that can damage DNA in cells and may cause cancer. EFSA explains, in its statement, that for genotoxins like these it is not possible to establish a safe level.  

Information on the occurrence of MOAH in food is lacking, therefore, EFSA experts worked on two different predictive scenarios, using a margin of exposure approach, and noticed a possible health concern in both cases.  

For MOAH, experts highlight the necessity for more scientific research on this topic, to quantify their presence in food and to better assess the risks they pose. Regarding MOSH, EFSA recommends keeping studying the possible long-term effects on human health.    

The public consultation on this draft scientific opinion is open until 30 April 2023. action.