Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a scientific opinion that found the highest levels of exposure to mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) were in bread and rolls.
EFSA said that MOH was possibly carcinogenic and could pose a cancer risk
MOH was found in a variety of food contact materials such as packaging and also in in white oils used as release or spray agents for bakery products.
Spray agents no used
However, when asked about the release and spray agents, Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, a body representing the UK bakery industry said: “In the UK they are not used at all”
He added that the Federation of Bakers had assured that the UK’s Food Standard’s Agency (FSA) that there were no hydrocarbons in UK bread many years ago.
He said that all parties were still unsure over the source of MOH in bread, but suggested that EFSA had only made assumptions as to its origins.
“It assumes it is release and spray agents because that’s historically where levels would have come from.”
In its opinion, EFSA identified a number of potential sources of MOH, including production practices of grans and contamination from packaging.
UK industry: MOH not in processing aids
Asked if it was possible that MOH could be in UK bread in some other capacity, he said: “I don’t know where it comes from, but it certainly doesn’t come from the UK.”
He also categorically ruled out that MOH levels could come from processing aids used in bread manufacture.
Residues of MOH were found in UK bread, according to one study looked at by EFSA as it formed its opinion.
“We need to understand where these numbers come from as it is not clear from the report,” said Polson, adding that result could have come from a single country or a single bakery.
An EFSA spokesperson told BakeryAndSnacks.com that the majority of data in different food groups was provided by the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zürich (Kantonales Labor Zürich, KLZH) reporting analyses performed from 1997 to 2010.
She added that the study prepared for CONCAWE and EWFFood from 2001 was also used to assess levels in bread, (Chemical Risk Analysis, 2001, 'The usage, occurrence and dietary intake of white mineral oils and waxes and naturally occurring hydrocarbons in Europe')
In its opinion, EFSA acknowledged that “few data were available on mineral oil residues in commercially produced breads”.
An EFSA spokesperson suggested that some older data may have been used to assess levels in breads.
Regardless of the source, Polson said that there was no cause for concern
“There is nothing in the report that requires the UK to alter their eating habits,” he said.
He said that in the UK there had been no discussion yet as to where levels could have come from, but the industry would try to ascertain the source.
According to EFSA, the most effective method to detect MOH levels in food is through pre-separation by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) on-line coupled to GC with flame ionisation detection (FID).