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Europe: Preventing mineral-oil migration into food

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While consumers can do very little to prevent mineral-oil components – MOSH and MOAH – residues, the food industry has responded by introducing minimization strategies, says TÜV SÜD.

Mineral oil and its components can be detected in food products.

MOSH and MOAH residues can be found in both raw products and convenience food.

The likely pathways by which they can get into food are many and varied.

MOSH and MOAH stand for the chemical groups of saturated mineral-oil hydrocarbons and mineral-oil aromatic hydrocarbons.

Next to unsaturated hydrocarbons, MOSH and MOAH are the main components of mineral oil.

Mineral oil and its derivatives are common in printing inks used in newspaper printing or the print on packaging materials.

From there the MOSH and MOAH compounds find their way into recycled materials.

In addition, mineral-oil fractions in lubricants for example, used in the food and packaging industry, or in exhaust gases and consumables needed for the operation of harvesting machinery, get into food products.

As mineral oil and its components are used in a wide-range of applications, MOSH and MOAH are quite common.

Animal studies have shown that these substances pose potential health hazards.

However, as the available studies in humans are inadequate and not considered significant by international standards, no upper limit has yet been defined for food products.

Consequently, the migration of mineral-oil components to food products should be prevented as far as possible.

Here are some ways:

· Limit the use of recycled paper in food packaging, which has in fact recently been implemented.

Packaging for food with large surface areas, such as rice, breadcrumbs and cereals, specifically, is increasingly made from virgin fibers.

· Adhesives used in cardboard food boxes also include MOSH and MOAH that migrate directly into the food product.

Additional PET film or specially coated inside bags may be a solution in these cases.

They form a mechanical barrier, hindering the mineral-oil substances from migrating directly to the product.

However, this solution is only open to dried food.

· Change to printing inks free from mineral oil.

This option helps to reduce the migration of mineral-oil residues to food and has been adopted by parts of the packaging industry, food industry and some food retailers.

The success of MOSH and MOAH reduction measures also depends on further manufacturers of print products replacing the mineral oil in their products with vegetable oil.

· To lead the MOSH and MOAH reduction measures to success, companies also need to be highly alert and must engage in a lot of specific residue analysis.