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Tighter limits on MOAHs in food

The European Commission has launched a tightening on the contamination of aromatic hydrocarbons of mineral oils (MOAH) in food. This is the first concrete measure, after the repeated alarms, especially from FoodWatch, and pending the EFSA opinion.

MOAH, limits to contamination

The decision was hired on 17.5.22 by the Standing Committee for Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) of the European Commission. (1)

The new limits the presence of MOAH in food have immediate effect and are structured as follows:

  • 0,5 mg / kg for low fat / oil dry food (≤ 4% fat / oil),
  • 1 mg / kg for foods with a higher fat / oil content (> 4% fat / oil),
  • 2 mg / kg for fats / oils.

A timid step forward

The introduction of thresholds these contaminants suspected of being carcinogenic and genotoxic is a step forward. Previously, limits were set in the EU only for infant formulas. However, the measure remains very modest.

Despite exceeding the limits leads to the withdrawal or recall of foods, the thresholds are not legally binding throughout the EU. Indeed, it is up to the Member States to decide whether to apply them.

Critical FoodWatch

Food Watch, the organization most committed to the presence of MOAH in food, is critical. His investigation which revealed the presence of these contaminants in many foods has certainly urged the European executive to intervene, preceding the EFSA opinion expected by 2022. But the measure is deemed insufficient.

'The limits to contamination they are still not enough to fully protect European consumers. EFSA's risk assessment needs to go a step further: there should be no detectable MOAH in any food in the European Union. With carcinogenic contaminants, even a small amount is too much. There is a technology to detect low levels of MOAH: in case of detection, food must be removed from the shelves'says FoodWatch. (2)

Switzerland and Germany ahead

Aromatic hydrocarbons of mineral oils (MOAH, mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons) can contaminate food through their presence in food packaging, processing equipment and food additives. Food packaging made of paper and cardboard are more at risk, due to the inks used to decorate them.

Given the high toxicity of MOAHs, mutagenic and carcinogenic, some countries are already on high alert. In Switzerland, the use of recycled paper in food contact materials is prohibited and in Germany a migration limit of 0,5 mg / kg for MOAH is recommended. (3)

Marta Strinati


(1) Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed Section Novel Food and Toxicological Safety of the Food Chain 21 April 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/food/system/files/2022-05/reg-com_toxic_20220421_sum.pdf

(2) FoodWatch. EU proposes limits for mineral oils in food products. 30.5.22 https://www.foodwatch.org/en/news/2022/eu-proposes-limits-for-mineral-oils-in-food-products/

(3) Birgit Geueke. New draft of German mineral oil ordinance 3.4.17. https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/news/new-draft-of-german-mineral-oil-ordinance

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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