Mineral oils are undesirable in chocolate and other types of food

According to investigations conducted by the Stiftung Warentest, various hydrocarbon mixtures (mineral oils) have been detected in chocolate pieces enclosed in some of the tested advent calendars. Contents of up to 7 milligrams of aromatic hydrocarbons per kilogram of chocolate were measured. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has undertaken a preliminary assessment of the health risks that may be associated with this level of contamination of chocolate according to the data provided by the Stiftung Warentest. Already at the end of 2009, the BfR had pointed to the contamination of foods with mineral oil contents such as aromatic and non-aromatic hydrocarbons from packaging materials made of recycled cardboard. "The current investigation confirms that it is possible to avoid such contamination, since there was a proportion of the investigated calendars where none of these substances was found in the chocolates", says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

If a worst-case situation is assumed based on the contents of individual chocolate pieces from the calendars with the highest quantities of approximately 7 milligrams per kilogram of chocolate, a maximum level of 0.022 milligrams of hydrocarbons per chocolate figure can be calculated. Based on this and the assumption that only one chocolate piece is eaten per day, this content in turn only results in a very low additional quantity beyond the overall level of mineral oils in foods and the daily intake of aromatic hydrocarbons via food as has been estimated by the European Food Safety Agency most recently (EFSA, 2012). Although these background levels are low, aromatic hydrocarbon are undesirable in any type of food.

Mineral oils are mixtures of different hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons have not been studied sufficiently from a toxicological point of view. For this reason, it cannot be excluded that aromatic hydrocarbons contained in food also exert carcinogenic potency.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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