On June 30, 2017, at 03:00 pm CEST (Central European Summer Time), the Food Packaging Forum (FPF) held a public webinar on mineral oils in food contact materials (FCMs). In conjunction with this webinar, FPF released its new dossier on mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH).
Mineral oils are present in food and food packaging as intentionally added substances, but can also be contaminants from printed paper recycling. Recently, their risk to human health has been discussed as a result of new toxicological understanding (FPF reported).
The guest speaker for this webinar was Dr. Konrad Grob of the Official Food Control Authority of Zurich, Switzerland. He is a member of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF Panel). Dr. Grob is an analytical chemist. In the 1990s he started measuring mineral oils as migrants from FCMs and has since deepened his understanding on this matter.
In his presentation, Konrad Grob discussed current scientific understanding of mineral oils toxicity, and touched on its implication for risk assessment of food contact materials. Mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in the context of food contact materials include mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH), mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) and polyolefin saturated hydrocarbons (POSH). Dr. Grob explained that MOAH which are known to contain genotoxic compounds do not bioaccumulate, however it is unclear whether they are metabolized into substances which are then stored in the body. On the other hand the MOSH with a size range of C20 to C35 are known to bioaccumulate, while those with a larger size (>C40) are assumed to pass through the body without being taken up. For the MOSH sized C20-C35, it is unclear whether they are not metabolized and this aspect requires further investigation.
The MOH-related POSH were also mentioned as a relevant issue. POSH are found to migrate at levels of several ppm from polyolefins into food (with 10 ppm being the highest level measured), according to Dr. Grob. POSH contribute significantly to polyolefin overall migrate, however their toxicity is not well-understood. Other materials with MOH migration mentioned by Koni Grob are for example hot-melt adhesives and lubricants.
Chemical analysis for mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) is demanding, as it requires non-standard analytical equipment. Grob therefore recommended a more focused approach to MOH analysis, and explained that analyzing different food products across their production would likely be a promising approach to identify major MOH inputs—as example he named chocolate, where this approach has been applied successfully. He pointed out that not only food packaging, but also other food contact materials contribute significantly to MOH migration and should therefore be identified and addressed. Other non-food MOH exposure sources are for example cosmetics, but little is known about dermal uptake of MOH and therefore Dr. Grob pointed out that further research is necessary on this matter, too.
Due to a technical problem, the video recording of the webinar cannot be provided.