What are the MOAH, these “toxic” mineral oils found in baby milk?

Chemical compounds derived from petroleum in infant milk? The NGO Foodwatch fired Thursday the alarm ring pointing the presence of “mineral oils dangerous to health in powdered milk sold in France by Nestlé and Danone”.

“These mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons, MOAHs, have nothing to do in our food, let alone in toddlers' products” in a statement Camille Dorioz, campaign manager of the association.

Why do MOAHs worry so much? These mineral oils are hydrocarbon mixtures containing “thousands of chemical compounds” that come mainly from oil, coal, natural gas and biomass, says the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which considers ” worrying “exposure to these products.

Indeed, the so-called “aromatic” mineral oil hydrocarbons – like those found in milk powder – can act as “genotoxic carcinogens (by damaging the DNA, the genetic material of the cells, and also causing the cancer)” , says EFSA in a 2012 opinion.

“Potentially carcinogenic” products

These products “potentially carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disruptors”, adds the campaign manager of Foodwatch contacted by, are particularly present in the inks and adhesives used on food packaging.

“It's also found in recycled paper and cardboard packaging,” says Camille Dorios, “these materials initially contained MOAH inks, recycling does not make them disappear, these chemicals blend into paper or cardboard. recycling time “.

Many contaminants “migrate” from packaging to food “either through direct contact or gas phase, and the oils have a surprising ability to move and penetrate food,” says Camille Dorioz. They can also contaminate our food “via many other sources, even before being packaged, because the food industry uses it for many uses, for example as lubricants or anti-dust for machines used in production. or the harvest “, illustrates the association that warns about this danger since 2015.

That year, Foodwatch caused a stir in France by publishing the results of a study that found that 60% of consumer foods tested (rice, cereals, lentils, couscous, pasta), including many private labels, were contaminated by these hydrocarbon derivatives. Since then, six French retailers, E. Leclerc, Carrefour, Lidl, Intermarché, System U and Casino, have made commitments to reduce MOAH contamination.

Technological levers

Since 2017, ANSES recommends to packaging manufacturers review their “manufacturing process” and “use MOAH-free printing inks, glues, additives and processing aids in the manufacturing process of paper and board packaging”. The agency also advises conducting studies to identify the steps that lead to the creation of mineral oil hydrocarbons during recycling.

“This will identify the technological levers to reduce the contamination of recycled fibers,” she plans.

Despite these recommendations, Foodwatch denounces a lack of return from health authorities, both French and European, and industrialists.

“Everyone is aware of the risks associated with MOAH, everyone has the means to limit them, so why does not everyone commit to it?” wonders Camille Dorioz, from Foodwatch who launches a petition in France, Germany and the Netherlands for Nestlé and Danone to commit to selling products without any detectable MOAH.

Nestlé has made it clear that “the Foodwatch report may cause concern among parents” and said the group will work with the NGO “to better understand their findings”. Danone on the other hand replied in a statement not to use “mineral oil compound in our recipes.We regularly check their possible presence in our products as part of our vigilance plans for several years,” added the group that ensures that its “internal standards impose extremely rigorous controls that go beyond the applicable regulations”.


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