June 5, 2020

Advent Calendar Chocolates May be Contaminated with Mineral Oil

When I watch television shows such as “Unwrapped”, which detail how many popular foods are made, I always wonder exactly how facilities keep those huge machines clean enough to handle food. How are the machines oiled? What about the fuel used to power the machines? As it turns out, the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest analyzed the chocolates in some Advent calendars available for sale in Germany and found mineral oil residues. The oil most likely came from products used to lubricate machines or from recycled packaging.

Public Health AlertNo illnesses have been reported associated with this issue, and the German Confectionary Association says there is no health concern. But aromatic mineral oil is contaminated with carcinogens. At the low level found in the candies, there would be no immediate health effects, but people at a higher risk for cancer may want to rethink buying these products. Chocolate is high in fat, which is where the mineral oil can accumulate.

The oil has anti-friction properties and inhibits corrosion. According to a Google Translate version of the original article, the oil could come from the cardboard packaging that is made of recycled paper, or from oils used in the production chain. It may outgas from packaging material or migrate into the candy from oil-base colors on the package. Testing found that chocolate chips of nine tested calendars contain the most mineral oil components. Brands with the highest levels of non-aromatic minerals oils were Arko, Rausch,  and the Confiserie Heilemann. One Lindt Advent calendar and a Nestle Smarties calendar did have traces of the carcinogenic aromatic mineral oil. In fact, if you have purchased an Arko Advent Calendar, return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

The longer the product is stored, the more mineral oil components migrate into the chocolate. Saving Advent calendars for the next season is not advisable. There are no legal limits for mineral oils in foods, according to the European Food Safety Authority. And no studies have been conducted to find the level where mineral oil is dangerous.

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