European food companies target mineral oil hydrocarbon levels in palm oil

Several European food companies have asked top palm oil producers Indonesia and Malaysia to cut the amount of mineral oil hydrocarbons in their palm oil, Reuters reported on 18 February.

“They say hydrocarbons are found in our oils because of the way we process the fruits,” said Nageeb Abdul Wahab, chief executive of the Malaysian Palm Oil Association. “The lubricant we use sometimes comes into contact with our product. To address this issue, we have to use food grade lubricant, but the available options are very, very expensive.”

Industry officials told Reuters that food grade lubricants could cost 8-10 times more than their petroleum-based or synthetic counterparts and could hurt profit margins.

Swiss multinational food corporation Nestlé said it was actively monitoring its supply chain and working with suppliers on acceptable levels of mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) in agricultural raw materials.

“Although there are currently no regulatory requirements in place, our objective is to ensure levels of MOSH and MOAH are as low as feasibly possible in the ingredients that we source.”

Reuters said there were currently no European regulations on mineral oil hydrocarbons in food.

The news agency quoted sources as saying that the Malaysian Palm Oil Board was considering setting its own mineral oil hydrocarbon limit nationally.

Meanwhile, Indonesian palm oil producer Musim Mas said it had already switched to food-grade lubricants to address buyer concerns about contaminants.

“Customers’ concerns regarding hydrocarbon-based lubricants contaminating food sources are an increasing requirement for 2020,” a spokeswoman said.