Call for scientific data on Mineral Oil hydrocarbons in food

15 October 2010


Mineral hydrocarbons are a heterogeneous group of substances consisting of mixtures of different-sized hydrocarbon molecules, which may include saturated and/or unsaturated hydrocarbons with a linear, branched or cyclic structure.

Based on their structure, refined mineral hydrocarbons can be divided in three basic classes:

- Paraffinic oil, based on n-alkanes
- Naphthenic oils, based on cycloalkanes
- Aromatic oils, based on aromatic hydrocarbons.

They can be classified as
- Medium & low viscosity: C10-C25, viscosity at 100°C 3-8.5 centiStokes, molecular weights 300-500
- High viscosity: C30, viscosity at 100°C not less than 11 centiStokes, molecular weight not less than 500
- Microcrystalline waxes: C20-C60, viscosity at 100 °C 10-30 centiStokes, molecular weight 300-750+

The joint FAO/WHO expert committee meeting on food additives (JECFA) has set several ADIs for mineral oil (2002):
- For mineral oil with high viscosity: ADI of 0-20 mg/kg body weight (b.w.).
- For mineral oil with medium and low viscosity: temporary ADIs for Class I (0-10 mg/kg b.w) and Class II and III (0-0.01 mg/kg b.w)

The EFSA panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) established and ADI of 12 mg/kg b.w/day for high viscosity white mineral oils (2009).

In order to assess the need for regulatory measures as regards mineral hydrocarbons in food the European Commission, in accordance with Art 29 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, asked the European Food Safety Authority for a scientific opinion on the risks to human health related to the presence of mineral oil in food. The opinion should include a detailed exposure assessment taking into account the background presence of mineral oil in food.

Therefore, EFSA in the context of the mandate received [EFSA-Q-2010-00170] envisage the need to collect data on mineral oil hydrocarbons levels in food and beverages to allow estimating the background exposure of the European population to these substances for risk assessment purposes.

Call for data
Member States, research institutions, academia and all other stakeholders are invited to submit data on occurrence in food and beverages of:

a) Mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH), comprising paraffinic and naphthenic hydrocarbons and
b) Mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH)

or –alternatively-

c) Mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) (comprising, without distinction, paraffinic, naphthenic and aromatic hydrocarbons)
in cases where a) and b) have not been analysed separately.

Samples referring to known adulteration (such as the adulterated sunflower oil) should be excluded from the submitted dataset.

Analytical results with a limit of quantification not greater than 10 mg/kg for edible oils and 1 mg/kg for other foods are the objective of this call. Data with somewhat higher quantification limits are also collected.

Please report always the limit of quantification (LOQ) or the limit of detection (LOD), and specify clearly whether the LOD or LOQ is being provided, using the relevant fields of the Standard Sample Description (R14, R15, R27).

The data providers are also kindly requested to report information on the molecular mass distribution expressed as number or carbon atoms (referring to n-alkanes) including:

  • range of carbon atoms and
  • maximum of the distribution curve;

these values can be reported in the field “Comment of the result (R32)”

For more details on how to submit the data on mineral oil hydrocarbons please follow the link DATEX How to submit data where under the section Reporting formats you can find the following files:

  1. “Reporting format – mineral oil hydrocarbons”, a reporting format for MOH, MOSH and MOAH in MS Excel and,
  2. “Instructions – mineral oil hydrocarbons”, a document containing the specific requirements for this collection and information on how to use the reporting format.

It is very important to read the “Instructions” document before using the reporting format.

The reporting format is in line with the “Standard sample description for food and feed” available on the EFSA website( Standard sample description for food and feed ). XML transmission is also possible; for more information about this feature please contact datex [at]

Deadline for transmitting the data: 15 October 2010.

Contact details

Data should be sent to the e-mail addresses given below: contaminants [at]

For inquires regarding the reporting format please contact us at datex [at]

5 August 2010