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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 levels than MOAH. The highest levels of MOH were found in vegetable oils and the highest exposure 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, the genetic material of cells, and may cause cancer), while some MOSH are known to accumulate in the liver and lymphoid system.


In March 2023, EFSA launched a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on the risk assessment of mineral oils hydrocarbons (MOH) in food. The deadline for sending comments is 30 April 2023.


  1. 2019

    EFSA carried out a rapid risk assessment on the possible risks for public health, following the detection of MOAH in some batches of infant formula and follow-on formula 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 Regulation 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".