Food Law News - EU - 2001

Standing Committee for Foodstuffs, Extract from minutes of meeting - 25 October 2001

CONTAMINANTS - Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in olive residue oil

Outcome of the expert group meeting on 3 October on ways to prevent contamination of olive residue oil and other oils with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Information presented by the Member States had clarified that the heating process used to dry olive residue was responsible for the formation of PAHs. However, too many factors apply to be able to clearly identify the best production practice. Factors such as the heating temperature, duration and mode of application of heat (direct or indirect heating) required further investigation by the producing Member States.

Nevertheless, two general approaches considered to be possible ways to avoid PAHs were by reducing the heating temperatures and preventing the smoke from the heating fuel getting into the olive residue. The use of solvent during the extraction process was excluded as a factor, this having no influence on the presence of PAHs.

Despite the need for further investigations on how to prevent the formation of PAHs and consequent improvement of production practices, presently producers can ensure that products do not contain unacceptable levels of PAHs by using effective refining processes, such as using activated charcoal. A document from Spain was being considered as a possible basis for a code of practice for effective refining.

The Commission requested that the Member States investigate how to avoid the formation of PAHs during production of olive-residue oil and in the meantime to ensure that industry uses effective refining processes to remove any PAHs.

No evidence had arisen to indicate current general problems in the production in other vegetable oils, but Member States were asked to investigate and ensure that such problematic heating regimes are avoided.

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