On August 31, 2016 the German national TV station ARD in their investigative journalism series Plusminus showed a report on mineral oils in food from packaging, and their impact on human health. In the report, findings from a yet unpublished document on mineral oils by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are discussed. According to the report, the EFSA document shows that the health effects of mineral oil are more serious than previously thought. The unpublished EFSA document may be addressing a previous EFSA scientific opinion on mineral oils from 2012, where the need for a reevaluation of the current acceptable daily intake was recommended (FPF reported).
Results from rat feeding studies, as well as human biomonitoring data, were apparently included in the so-far unpublished EFSA document. The results are said to show that mineral oils accumulate over the years in humans and at much higher levels than previously expected or predicted from the rat feeding studies. In the human body, mineral oils are said to damage organs or cause cancer, according to expert opinions. As a consequence, EFSA scientific panel member Konrad Grob recommends a drastic reduction of mineral oil exposure. The same stance was taken in a 2009 recommendation by the German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), saying that minimizing exposure to mineral oils via migration from printed paperboard food packaging was urgently necessary.
The report further criticizes that there is no clear regulation concerning mineral oils in food packaging, and even though Germany has been discussing its draft ordinance for several years (FPF reported) no concrete actions have been taken to date, despite the BfR recommendation. The market is also not responding rapidly: Barrier carton packaging which reduces migration of mineral oils into foodstuffs is available, however at a higher cost, and therefore the demand so far is not large, according to the ARD report.
Plusminus (August 31, 2016). “Gesundheit: Mineralöl in Lebensmitteln.” ARD Das Erste (in German)
BfR (December 9, 2009). “Übergänge von Mineralöl aus Verpackungen auf Lebensmittel.” (in German)