FOOD SAFETY – IMPORTANT TO PRODUCERS, CONSUMERS AND REGULATORS ALIKE!

We all want to eat food that is safe for consumption. However, food can be contaminated by microbial organisms or chemicals not intended for consumption. One of the chemicals is mineral oil that can unintentionally enter the food through contamination at various points in the food supply chain. A potential source of mineral oil contamination in food is recycled food packaging paper.

The presence of mineral oil in food has been subject of debate as certain components in mineral oil can cause adverse health effects. Although mineral oil varies considerably in composition due to the differences in level of refinement,  the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that the mineral oil intake is a potential concernIn a review published in 2018, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment reduced the concerns about the saturated hydrocarbons in food and advised to focus on the aromatic hydrocarbons. 

UNDERSTANDING MINERAL OIL CONTAMINATION IN FOOD IS A MATTER OF FOOD SAFETY!

The European Commission acted by adopting a Recommendation for monitoring mineral oil in food and food contact materials.

The current technique to analyse mineral oil in either food or food contact materials is High-Performance Liquid Chromatography combined with Gas Chromatography (1D-GC). However, the test method measures all hydrocarbons – even of biological or vegetable origin. It has been demonstrated that 1D-GC does not sufficiently distinguish between mineral oils and other low molecular weight hydrocarbons[1]. The technique is insufficiently selective for mineral oil constituents and non-mineral oil constituents, thereby producing false positives in an analysis. Consequently, an improper analytical method could lead to the unjustified dismissal of evaluated and approved food contact materials, e.g. listed materials in the Union list of the Plastics Regulation.

THE USE OF 1D-GC COULD RESULT IN FALSE POSITIVES AND AN INACCURATE MINERAL OIL CONTENT!

HARRPA has recognised that there is a need to develop an improved analytical technique capable to distinguish between mineral oil and non-mineral oil constituents. We therefore engaged with Laboratory Lommatzsch & Säger in 2017 to develop a proof of concept based on 2-Dimensional Gas Chromatography (2D-GC) to distinguish mineral oil and resins in cereals. This was so successful that we decided to extend this 2D-GC technique to the resins on the market.

The 2D-GC is more sophisticated in analyzing resins in food contact materials compared to the current 1D-GC. 2D-GC shows clusters of resins species that can be distinguished from mineral oil. A presentation introducing the 2D-GC technique can be downloaded. The full report is also available to all interested parties.

2D-GC IS MORE RELIABLE AND ADEQUATE IN DISTINGUISHING RESINS FROM MINERAL OIL!

The identification of resin species is based on mass spectra, which have been recorded by Laboratory Lommatzsch & Säger. HARRPA makes the spectra available to all interested laboratories for a correct interpretation of analytical results when analysing resins in food contact materials. Please contact the HARRPA secretary if you interested in receiving the Mass Spectra Database.

Since the mineral oil topic is quite complex, we have a layman’s version available explaining the fundamentals and background of the mineral oil analysis.

HARRPA is committed to contribute to the safety of food. This requires a proper risk assessment that includes an accurate analysis measuring what is present in food or a food contact material. Correct interpretation of the analysis is key! We call upon other stakeholders to evaluate 2D-GC and share the results with other (Cefic) sector groups. HARRPA strongly recommends that 2D-GC is accepted and endorsed by the authorities as a (complimentary) technique in determining the mineral oil content in food and food contact materials.


[1] (*) Lommatzsch, M., Biedermann, M., Grob, K., & Simat, T. (2016, October 17). Analysis of saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons migrating from polyolefin-based hot-melt adhesive into food. Food additives & contaminants, Part A, 33(3), 473-488