Health Risks in Food

Consumers should not change their eating habits regarding the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) opinion about potential risks of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in food items.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommended to consumers about not changing their diet routines because Parma-based EFSA have not discovered any particular food safety concerns in its 185-page reported published earlier this month.

The UK food safety watchdog said: “Although EFSA has identified potential concern from mineral oils in food, it acknowledges considerable uncertainties in assessing any potential risks.

“As in the Food Standards Agency’s recent survey, today’s opinion does not identify any specific food safety concerns. The FSA is not advising consumers to change their eating habits based on the EFSA opinion”.

Regarding their opinion, EFSA cautioned that the background MOH exposure in packaging and food was a possible cause for concern.

Recycled paperboard packaging with some additional bakery goods were emphasised as possible major sources of exposure to the wider range of group of chemicals.

The two main categories of mineral oils that were assessed were aromatic and saturated MOHs. Concerns started when Swiss scientists found MOHs from inks in recycled paperboard were leaching into foods.

EFSA outlined numerous sources for the presence of MOH in food, both through contamination and intentional uses in food production.

In food, the contact materials underlined were vital sources such as recycled paper and board. Other sources included were printing inks and additives which are used in the manufacture of plastic including lubricants and adhesives.

The CONTAM panel said: “MOH contamination of food by the use of recycled paperboard as packaging material may be a significant source of dietary exposure”.

Possible solutions were also put forward such as the use of functional barriers into packaging and increasing of the recycling of food packages by avoiding the use of material and substances with MOH in the production of food packages.

Liquids in can production and food wax coatings for fruit and chewing gum were highlighted. Food additives and processing aids also contribute to levels of saturated mineral oils (MOSHs) along with release agents for bakery items, sugar products and oils for surface treatment of rice and confectionary, says the expert panel.

Other suggestions to cut MOH exposure included the need of making certified reference standards and future monitoring becoming more sophisticated in order to figure the difference between aromatic and saturated MOHs.

The food groups that have to be monitored should be outlined along with more analysis on where in the food production process contamination occurs. The latter would assist in making better and advanced monitoring programmes.

However, UK officials still insist on supporting the advice given in December last year when they evaluated that not enough evidence existed to urge consumers to keep away from certain dried foods where higher than usual amounts of the chemicals had been discovered by Swiss researchers.

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