Written Q&A to EU Commission – Mineral oil residues in food

An interesting question about Mineral oil residues in food, well addressed by the Commission, in light of the former experience in the management of alerts deriving from oil contamination in Ukraine. Some years ago there were several problems with this specific risk, and in the alerts was involved nearly every food operator in EU in the oil sector.

At that time, the Commission and EFSA well evaluated the situation, raising the thresholds for the presence of mineral oil (and avoiding sanctions for a lot of FBO, due to the fact that most of the sunflower oil il EU is coming from Ukraine) and doing a lot of communications towards the consumers, excluding serious risks for the human health.

Question for written answer E-000242/13
to the Commission
Elisabeth Jeggle (PPE)
(10 January 2013)

Subject: Mineral oil residues in food

Again and again, residues of mineral oil are being found in food. There are various ways in which this contamination could have occurred. One potential source is the practice of transporting mineral oil and food in the same tanks, in which case if the tanks are not cleaned thoroughly enough, mineral oil can become mixed with food.
So far, monitoring of such transport has been subject to national law, and there is no limit valid throughout the EU for levels of mineral oil residues in food to ensure that human health is not endangered.

1. Is the Commission planning to order a study of the impact of mineral oil residues on human health?

2. Is the Commission planning to introduce a limit on mineral oil residues in food to protect consumers, on the basis of scientific knowledge?

3. Will the Commission step up, throughout the EU, monitoring of the cleaning of tanks which are used to transport both mineral oil and food, or else to ban such parallel use?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
(1 February 2013)

At the request of the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has delivered a Scientific Opinion on Mineral Oil Hydrocarbons (MOH) in Food (1). According to this opinion, the main sources of MOH in food are food-packaging materials, food additives, processing aids and environmental contaminants such as lubricants. Transport of mineral oil in the same tanks as sunflower oil has resulted in the establishment of a specific action limit, import restrictions for the country of origin (2), and increased awareness of control bodies in the Member States. Discussions with the Member States on the need for a general maximum level for mineral oil in food based on the EFSA opinion are ongoing.

⋅1∙ EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM); Scientific Opinion on Mineral Oil Hydrocarbons in Food. EFSA Journal 2012;10(6):2704. [185 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2704. Available online: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/efsajournal.

⋅2∙ Commission Regulation (EC) No 1151/2009 imposing special conditions governing the import of sunflower oil originating in or consigned from Ukraine due to contamination risks by mineral oil and repealing Decision 2008/433/EC, OJ L 313, 28.11.2009.

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