Mineral oils not found in UK breads

The Federation of Bakers have clarified that mineral oils – cited as a possible health hazard by EFSA – have not been found in UK breads by any processing method.

Just a few days ago, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave a scientific opinion that revealed extremely high levels of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) in bread and rolls.

EFSA said that MOH could potentially be carcinogenic and could as well carry cancer risks for consumers.

MOH was discovered in many food contact materials such as packaging and in white oils which are used as release or spray agents for bakery products.

However, Gordon Polson, the director of the Federation of Bakers, said that the release and spray agents are not used at all in the UK.

He also said that the Federation of Bakers had clarified that there were no hydrocarbons in UK bread many years ago.

He added that all parties were still confused over whether there are any MOH in bread but suggested that EFSA had only made assumptions as to its origins.

He said: “It assumes it is release and spray agents because that’s historically where levels would have come from”.

In its own opinion, EFSA recognised a variety of possible sources of MOH such as production practices of grans and contamination from packaging.

Regarding the possibility of finding MOH in British-made breads, Polson said: “I don’t know where it comes from, but it certainly doesn’t come from the UK”.

He said that the possibility of MOH levels coming from processing aids used in bread manufacturing was highly unlikely.

However, EFSA believe they found some residues of MOH in UK bread as they looked on at one particular study.

Polson said that the result could have come from a single country or perhaps a single bakery.

“We need to understand where these numbers come from as it is not clear from the report,” he added.

A spokesperson for the EFSA said that the majority of data in different food groups was provided by the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich reporting analyses from 1997 to 2010.

She also said that the study prepared for CONCAWE and EWFFood from 2001 was used to examine the levels in bread.

With its own opinion, EFSA acknowledged that “few data were available on mineral oil residues in commercially produced breads”.

An EFSA spokesperson said that there was a possibility that some older data could have been used to examine the levels in breads.

Despite this, Polson said that there was no cause to be concerned.

He added: “There is nothing in the report that requires the UK to alter their eating habits”.

He continued that there had been no discussion yet in the UK as to where the levels could have stemmed from but the industry would attempt to investigate the source.

According to EFSA, the most reliable method to detect MOH levels in food is by pre-separating using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) on-line coupled to GC with flame ionisation detection (FID).

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