Question for written answer to the Commission – 5th February 2020
Mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAHs) are harmful petroleum derivatives which are found in many food products. Recent tests have revealed the presence of MOAHs in powdered infant formula sold in the European Union. MOAHs, which are found in printing inks or machine lubricants, are also considered by many experts, including the European Food Safety Authority and the French National Agency for Health, Food, Environment and Occupational Safety, to be potentially carcinogenic, and even mutagenic, i.e. able to modify people’s genetic material. They should be banned from food outright to protect European consumers. Under Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, the EU must ensure food safety and thus consumer health.
1 Will the Commission take action to safeguard the health of Europeans and ensure that MOAHs are no longer found in food, particularly infant food?
2 Will the Commission ensure that the precautionary principle, explicitly alluded to in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is observed in relation to hydrocarbons in mineral oils, so that companies cannot sell any food with detectable amounts of MOAHs?
Answer given by Ms Kyriakides on behalf of the European Commission – 26th March 2020
- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that, in the absence of information on the presence or absence of 3-7 ring polycyclic aromatic compounds (3-7 PAC), the detection of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) in food should be considered of potential concern for human health.
Therefore EFSA recommended that analytical methods to identify 3-7 PAC should be routinely applied when MOAH are detected in food. A
workshop with all interested parties was organised on 5 December 2019 to discuss and conclude on harmonised sample preparation and analysis as a follow-up to this recommendation from EFSA (1).
Competent authorities have been requested to monitor the presence of MOAH in infant formula and follow-on formula and to report these data to EFSA and the Commission. EFSA assesses these findings on the possible risk for public health, with a view to determine appropriate harmonised risk management measures.
- The presence of MOAH was extensively discussed at the meetings of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed on 18 November 20193 and 21 February 2020 (2).
Discussions with EU Member States continue on appropriate harmonised risk management measures as regards the presence of MOAH in infant formula and follow-on formula, so as to ensure a high level of human health protection.
(1) EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), Arcella D, Baert K, Binaglia M, 2019. Rapid risk assessment on the possible risk for public health due to the contamination of infant formula and follow-on formula by mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH). EFSA Supporting Publication 2019:EN-1741. 18pp.doi:10.2903/sp.efsa.2019.EN-1741
(2) Summary report of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed Section Novel Food and Toxicological Safety of the Food Chain on 18 November 2019 https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/reg-com_toxic_20191118_sum.pdf
(Source: EU Parliament)