More about Mineral Oil

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Potential health risks, views

Information on how MOSH and MOAH affect the human health is limited. NGO’s are claiming potential dangers from these substances, but in depth knowledge is missing. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) regrets the lack of toxicological studies but also claims potential dangers that should come especially from MOAH. 
Two institutions commented in detail:
FSA (Food Standards Agency UK), Dec 2011: they did “not identify any specific food safety concerns” and “there is no need for consumers to change their eating habits”. 

  Link to FSA report

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority): The EFSA scientific report from 2012 is a comprehensive collection of literature publications and research results. It emphasizes that mineral oils are common in our world and that they find access into food from different sources. It considers both the exposure to MOSH and MOAH of potential concern.

  Link to EFSA report

Sources of Mineral Oils (MO)

Mineral oil hydrocarbons in food can result from everywhere. According to EFSA, the potential sources of MOSH and MOAH in food are:
  • natural occurrence in biota (air, soil, water)
  • environmental contamination (atmosphere, marine, fresh water)
  • food processing
  • food contact materials (e.g. jute and sisal bags, waxed materials, plastic materials, lubricating oils for cans, printing inks, recycled paper & board, adhesives)
  • food additives
  • pesticides
  • fat substitutes in food
  • unidentified sources in food
The European Commission recently issued a Recommendation (EU) 2017/84 asking Member States to monitor all sources of mineral oil hydrocarbons in food and food contact materials. Link to EU Recommendation 
The Joint Research Centre of the Commission is expected to publish soon (2018) two guidelines that will support the monitoring and reporting of data.


What does the corrugated industry do? 

Consumers’ safety is of highest priority for corrugated packaging industry. Although no toxicological studies on the effects of human exposure to mineral oil traces exist, the industry takes precautionary measures and is addressing consumers’ concerns. 
In 2011, the European paper & board industry made a commitment to phase out the use of printing inks based on mineral oils for printing paper & board packaging. The industry as well refrained from mineral oil-based process chemicals for food contact materials. These commitments are still followed today. On top of using mineral oil-free materials, companies are also developing innovative solutions to protect foodstuff from potential migration of mineral oils via packaging. 
The European paper & board industry is a pioneer in developing and setting standards for food contact paper & board packaging. The voluntary Industry Guideline, developed by CEPI and CITPA, and updated 2012, is broadly implemented throughout the industry. This standard enabled the industry to work on a solid base and has become a reference for the authorities and other stakeholders. 


Solving the issue

Eliminating the root cause is the most sustainable option and remains the ambition of the industry when working in the area of food contact. In paper and board, inks containing mineral oils are the main source for migration. Those inks, contained in different paper products, find their way via the recycling paper loop into the new packaging. 
FEFCO wants to encourage other industries as well to follow its example. This appeal goes mainly to newsprint: technology and mineral oil free inks are available and can be applied to print newspaper and magazines as well. Large scale newspaper print trials with mineral oil-free inks have been carried out with positive results including good recyclability of these printed products, mirroring what is already successfully implemented in the paper & board packaging printing.
FEFCO supports the request from food associations to push the newsprint to use mineral oil free formulated inks. The German Food Association (BLL) reminded newspaper publishers to stand up to their social responsibilities. Recently, the food industry published a “Toolbox for preventing the transfer of undesired mineral oil hydrocarbons into food”.


Link to the Corrugated Benelux Association - in French - in Dutch

FEFCO members are in active dialogue with national and European food safety authorities and other relevant key stakeholders such as ink producers. The cooperation and commitment from all those parties involved is indispensable to finding durable solutions that contribute positively on advancing the circular economy and consumers‘ safety.