Dietary exposures to mineral hydrocarbons from food-use applications in the United States

Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 May;40(5):555-71. doi: 10.1016/s0278-6915(02)00063-7.


Food-use applications of mineral hydrocarbons (MHC) derived from petroleum sources result in dietary exposure to these compounds by consumers. Food applications of MHC, including white mineral oils, paraffin waxes, microcrystalline waxes and petrolatum, include both direct-additive uses in which the MHC is intentionally applied to the food and indirect-additive uses in which the MHC become components of the food due to migration from food-contact surfaces. A key consideration in evaluating the safety of these uses of MHC is the level of exposure that results. We estimated exposures to MHC in the US from food applications based primarily on a food-consumption approach, in which MHC concentrations in foods were multiplied by the amount of these foods consumed. This was a conservative estimate, because it assumes that all foods that might contain MHC in fact do so at maximum possible concentrations. A "poundage approach", in which the amount of MHC used in food applications was divided by the US population to determine maximum potential per capita exposures, was used to validate the consumption-based estimates. Exposures to MHC from food-packaging applications were estimated using the FDA's food-factor approach, which takes into account the volume and kinds of food packaged with specific types of materials. A conservative estimate of mean exposure to all MHC types combined is 0.875 mg/kg BW/day. Half of this, 0.427 mg/kg BW/day, is white mineral oils used as pan-release lubricants in baking, for de-dusting of stored grain, in confectioneries, and in coatings for fruits and vegetables. Nearly all of the remainder, 0.404 mg/kg BW/day, is petrolatum, primarily from its use as trough grease in bakery applications. Exposure to paraffin and microcrystalline waxes combined is only 0.044 mg/kg BW/day.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Diet*
  • Food Additives / analysis*
  • Food Analysis
  • Food Handling
  • Food Industry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Mineral Oil / analysis
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Food Additives
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Mineral Oil