The SGS Institut Fresenius in Berlin has established an accredited analytical method to help manufacturers identify and prevent mineral oil hydrocarbon (MOH) migration from packaging to product.

MOH can transfer from packaging to foodstuffs, and have the potential to affect any packaged food. Currently, there are no legal limits on MOH migration but consumer organizations and retailers are demanding a zero tolerance approach.

Mineral oil hydrocarbon contamination comes in two forms:

  • Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons (MOSH)
  • Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOAH)

MOAH is of particular concern, with a report published in 2012 by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggesting they may be mutagenic and carcinogenic. While there is currently no EU-wide legal limit for mineral oils in food, although draft documentation is currently under consideration, both the EFSA and German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) now recommend minimizing the transference of MOH from packaging to foodstuffs. BfR reference values for MOSH fraction C10–C16 are 12 mg/kg, and for MOSH fraction C17–C20, 4 mg/kg.

MOSH and MOAH migrate into the foodstuffs from the mineral oils that are used as adhesives and printing inks, as well as during packaging manufacture. Research has shown that foods with a high surface area, high fat content, or that are packaged in recycled cartons, present the highest opportunity for contamination. Physical barriers, such as those made from polyethylene or paper, do not necessarily provide reliable protection against this migration and so food operators are now advised to seek new methods to combat this contamination.

SGS’s Analysis of Mineral Oil Components in Food will help manufacturers identify MOH in food, separately measure MOSH and MOAH levels, offer state-of-the-art analysis using high performance liquid chromatography – gas chromatography/flame ionization detector (HPLC - GC/FID), and help manufacturers evaluate the results. Using this method, MOH can be quantified at levels as low as 2.0 mg/kg to 0.5 mg/kg depending on the matrix. Using this data, food operators can then instigate procedures to effectively minimize the possibility of MOH migration.


To obtain meaningful output data for a food analysis of MOSH/MOAH, it is essential that samples are properly taken and correctly dispatched. At least 50 g of the foodstuff and at least 10 g of packaging material is required for the analysis to be reliable, and the sample must always be representative of the batch to be tested. Sample collection equipment, transport containers and packaging that cannot be an entry source for mineral oil contamination should be used. Glass, PET containers and aluminium foil are preferable.

For further information contact:

Tegeler Weg 33
D-10589 Berlin
t: +49 30 34607 - 700
f: +49 30 34607 - 710

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SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 85,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,800 offices and laboratories around the world.