Skip to main content

Mineral oil hydrocarbons

Mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) comprise a wide range of chemical compounds obtained mainly from petroleum distillation and refining. They are categorised into two main groups referred to as MOSH (Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons) and MOAH (Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons).

MOH can enter food in many ways - through environmental contamination, use of lubricants for machinery, release agents, processing aids, food or feed additives and migration from food contact materials. 

They have been found in a variety of foods, which typically contain higher levels of MOSH than MOAH. The highest levels of MOH were found in vegetable oils and the highest exposure Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time. is estimated for young people and infants who have been fed exclusively with infant formula containing high levels of MOSH. 

The potential human health impact of MOH varies widely. MOAH may act as genotoxic carcinogens (they can damage  DNA A complex chain-like molecule that carries the genetic material, present in living organisms and some viruses. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is capable of copying itself and carries the instructions for all the proteins used to create and sustain life., the genetic material of cells, and may cause cancer), while some MOSH are known to accumulate in the liver and lymphoid system.


EFSA re-evaluated the risk of exposure to MOH through food. Our experts concluded that MOSH do not pose a risk to public health at the current levels of exposure. 

One type of MOAH may contain genotoxic substances that can damage DNA in cells and may cause cancer. For substances such as these, a safe level cannot be established.

Our experts recommended more research to be done on the type of MOAH present in food and more toxicity The potential of a substance to cause harm to a living organism. data to be collected to better assess the risks they pose. They also said it is important to keep studying the possible long-term effects of MOSH on human health.      


  1. 2019

    EFSA carries out a rapid risk assessment  A specialised field of applied science that involves reviewing scientific data and studies in order to evaluate risks associated with certain hazards. It involves four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation. on the possible risks for public health, following the detection of MOAH in some batches of infant formula and follow-on formula Breast milk substitute aimed at infants who have commenced complementary feeding (i.e. the introduction of solid foods at or around 6 months of age). in France, Germany and the Netherlands. EFSA concluded that the exposure for infants and toddlers to MOAH in infant and follow-on formula is of possible concern for human health.   

  2. 2012

    Experts conclude that the potential human health impact of groups of substances among the MOH vary widely. MOAH may act as genotoxic carcinogens, while some MOSH can accumulate in human tissue and may cause adverse effects in the liver. Experts could not quantify the risks posed by MOAH in food with the data available, therefore they could not derive any safe level.  

EFSA’s role

EFSA assesses the risks for humans posed by mineral oil hydrocarbons through the food chain. Data on their presence in food is gathered through the on-going data collection of contaminants in food and feed.

EU framework

EU legislation says that Member States should perform monitoring of the presence of MOH in food with the involvement of food business operators, manufacturers, processors and distributers of food contact materials and other interested parties.

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre published a "Guidance on sampling, analysis and data reporting for the monitoring of mineral oil hydrocarbons in food and food contact materials".