Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

sunflower oil reference materials

JRC-IRMM has organised a proficiency test on the determination of mineral oil in sunflower oil

Contaminated sunflower oil: testing labs measure up


Following the discovery of contamination in sunflower oil imported from Ukraine (April 2008), the JRC has tested 55 analytical laboratories from 17 EU Member States plus Switzerland and Ukraine to determine their capability to measure levels of the contaminant – mineral oil – in sunflower oil. The test results are now available and show that around 80% of laboratories performed satisfactorily.

The JRC was asked by the Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers to scrutinise the capabilities of official control laboratories and industrial food laboratories to measure mineral oil in sunflower oil. The JRC Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) organised the tests, in which 55 analytical laboratories from 17 EU Member States plus Switzerland and Ukraine participated. The JRC analysed the results, and determined that between 78% and 85% of the laboratories were able to measure satisfactorily, depending on the test material.

European Commission Decision 2008/433/EC prohibits the importation of sunflower oil from Ukraine unless it is accompanied by a valid certificate for the level of mineral oil present. Furthermore, the decision stipulates that even once the Ukrainian authorities put in place a control and certification system, Member States should effectively double-check the values declared in the certificate until further notice.