Mineral oil hydrocarbons in food
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently published an updated risk assessment on mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOHs) in food.

MOHs can be classified mainly into mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH). The results show that MOSH is not of concern for human health, while MOAH is of concern for health. MOH can enter the food supply through environmental contaminants and food processing machinery.

In 2012, EFSA identified various health risks related to MOH, including liver damage caused by the accumulation of MOSH, and possible DNA damage and cancer caused by MOAH. In 2017, EFSA was mandated to monitor and update its scientific opinion on MOHs in food.

A recent update reveals that MOHs are most commonly found in vegetable oils and that young people, especially infants via infant formula, are at greatest risk. Due to the complex chemical composition of MOHs, uncertainties remain, especially regarding the oral toxicity of MOAHs with three or more aromatic rings. However, it is very likely that dietary exposure to MOAHs is of concern for young children and possibly other age groups.

EFSA recommends improving analytical methods, researching sources of MOSH in food, investigating their effects on human metabolism and accumulation in tissues, collecting more data on MOAH composition by number of aromatic rings and oral toxicity of single- and double-ring MOAHs, and studying their effects on gene damage and cancer. These recommendations will be taken into account by the European Commission in its decision-making process for setting maximum levels for MOAHs in certain foods.


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