The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found the highest levels of exposure to mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH), a possible health hazard, in bread and rolls in an opinion issued yesterday.
In its scientific opinion, EFSA said that MOH was possibly carcinogenic and could pose a cancer risk.
It has called for a rethink on acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels and suggested measures to assess and monitor the risk.
White oils as release or spray agents
Forms of MOH were found to be present in a variety of food contact materials such as packaging.
MOH was also said to present in white oils used as release or spray agents for bakery products, meaning regular consumers of bread and rolls were getting a double dose.
National dietary surveys put the additional exposure to the saturated variety of MOH from bread and rolls at 1.4 and 6,4 mg/kg b.w. per day in high consumers. Compare this to the daily average exposure for general consumers, which EFSA puts at 0.03 to 0.3 mg/kg b.w.
Children were almost twice as likely to be at risk.
Residues in bread
The opinion found that there was little data available on mineral oil residues found in commercial available breads.
However it pointed a UK study that put total concentration in loaves at 220 to 490 mg/kg.
A similar study in Germany found that the residues were found predominantly in the bottom crust of the loaf compared to the top curst and centre of the bread.
“Some bread may contain only mineral oil, some only petroleum jelly, some both kinds, and some may contain no mineral oils from the baking process,” said EFSA, poiting to a 1998 survey from the American Bakers Association on concentration levels.
Added risk and EFSA action
EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM panel) also found that consumers loyal to particular brands or those buying products from the same shops could risk being exposed to higher MOH levels.
EFSA has called for a rehaul of current daily limits and has made nine recommendations to tackle the issue.
The full 185-page opinion is available here.