Current Issues

MOSH/MOAH: No transfer of MOH into the infusion observed

Mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) have been part of cross-sectoral discussions at EU level for over a decade. MOH can be divided into two main types, mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH), which are long chain, partly branched hydrocarbons and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH), which are aromatic hydrocarbons with 1-5 ring systems. MOAHs are at the centre of the debate as they pose a higher health risk to consumers than MOSHs. On 15th December, 2023, the EU Commission picked up the pace and distributed a relatively concrete draft for setting maximum levels for MOAH under the Contaminants Regulation (EU) 2023/915. The intention is to introduce maximum levels for almost all food categories. In order to provide stakeholders with a platform for dialogue on 18th January, 2024, the Commission held an online stakeholder forum, where THIE was actively involved. THIE presented the position of the tea and herbal infusion industry. The transfer studies carried out by THIE’s member associations STEPI and UKTIA formed the centrepiece of the argumentation. On the basis of the presented studies, it could be scientifically proven that no transfer of MOH into the infusion can be observed. Accordingly, there is no need for setting MLs for MOAH in tea, herbal and fruit infusions in the EU contaminants Regulation (EU) 2023/915. The transfer studies, as well as other relevant aspects, such as the difficulties in analytics, can be found in the THIE Statement on MOSH/MOAH.

Interpretation of the EU Contaminants Regulation (EU) 2023/915 with regard to tea, herbal and fruit infusions

The new EU Contaminants Regulation (EU) 2023/915 came into force on 25th May, 2023. Compared to the previous Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 the readability has been improved and the references to Annex I to Regulation (EC) 396/2005 for the definitions of the categories have been increased. However, the wording still leaves some questions open. In order to avoid that different case-by-case interpretation is done by FBOs, laboratories analysing contaminants in tea, herbal and fruit infusions, enforcement authorities and local courts which will lead to disturbances in trade, a consistent approach is needed. A misinterpretation of the Regulation would force FBOs to spend a lot of money in analysing foodstuffs for irrelevant contaminants only to prove compliance of foodstuffs. This would contradict the purpose of the Regulation to protect public health and concentrate on relevant contaminants. Therefore, THIE has set up the “Interpretation of the EU Contaminants Regulation (EU) 2023/915 with regard to herbal infusions (raw materials) and tea (Camellia sinensis): an approach to open questions”. A consistent logic approach to Annex I of Reg. (EU) 2023/915 shows that herbal infusions are regarded as a separate category and that ingredients of herbal infusions only have to fulfil the requirements of the categories spices, herbs, vegetables or fruits if explicitly stated in Annex I.