On May 23, 2020, scientists from a consortium of European government agencies published a critical commentary about a recently published article by scientists from Nestlé. In their article, the food and beverage manufacturer carried out an interlaboratory comparison reviewing analytical procedures used by laboratories to measure the presence of mineral oil hydrocarbons in foods. Nestlé’s study reported that for some foods “the current methodologies cannot reliably conclude whether or not a food sample is indeed contaminated with mineral oils” when concentrations are less than 10 mg/kg food. It specifically urged for a number of improvements including an aligned and fully validated sample preparation strategy and a “more detailed root-cause analysis in the reports of laboratories through the use of mineral oil markers.”

However, the government agencies’ commentary argues that Nestle’s study “falls short in considering several aspects of assessing the reliability and comparability of analytical data produced by different laboratories.” The commentary article critically reviews many of the individual findings, and it also argues that the interlaboratory results presented may not actually be comparable. Given the sudden increase in demand for mineral oil hydrocarbon testing, the agency scientists argue that some variation can be reasonably expected and “an ongoing and increased harmonization of the analytical steps in the procedure” for analysis should help to improve comparability and reproducibility of future interlaboratory results.

The lead author of the Nestlé study, Sander Koster, presented on the analysis of mineral oil hydrocarbons at the Food Packaging Forum’s 2018 workshop and gave a summary of his presentation in a speaker spotlight. An earlier 2018 study from the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich also reviewed the science surrounding mineral oil hydrocarbons in food (FPF reported), and the Food Packaging Forum has published a dossier on the topic that provides an overview.


Koster, S. et al. (October 22, 2019). “Mineral oil hydrocarbons in foods: is the data reliable?Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

Bratinova, S. et al. (May 23, 2020). “The reliability of MOSH/MOAH data: a comment on a recently published article.” Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.