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Updated by Yeo Yu Teng

A healthy lifestyle protects our families and us from diseases. Besides exercising, eating food free from harmful contaminants also plays a big role. However, our food may contain contaminants that we cannot see with our naked eyes. These can harm our health if taken for a prolonged period. One example is a chemical called 3-MCPD in palm oil. This article will help you understand what 3-MCPD is, how it forms during production, and how it can be removed.

What is 3-MCPD

3-MCPD stands for 3-monochloropropane diol. The chemical mainly occurs as a contaminant in refined vegetable oils, including rapeseed, soybean, coconut, sunflower seed, and palm oil. These oils are used as ingredients in various foods, ranging from cookies to infant formula and dietary supplements.

Why is 3-MCPD bad for health

3-MCPD is possibly carcinogenic and can cause cancer1. The chemical also poses risks to kidney health and male fertility based on research on rats2. Various studies found that higher consumption of 3-MCPD over time is linked to increased health risks2. Therefore, international organizations have defined specific limits for the levels of 3-MCPD permitted in certain foods, which are used as guidelines by different countries.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) sets the tolerable daily intake (TDI) at 2 μg/kg body weight per day for 3-MCPD and its fatty acid esters3. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) determined the limit to be 4 μg/kg body weight per day1.

How does 3-MCPD form in palm oil

Crude palm oil (CPO) needs to be purified before distribution to consumers and industries. At industrial refineries, CPO goes through many processes to remove impurities.

3-MCPD esters can form during the deodorization step, where oil is heated to over 200 degrees Celsius to remove undesirable tastes and odors. At high temperatures, fatty compounds called glycerols or acyl glycerides react with chloride to form 3-MCPD esters4.

3-MCPD esters are a fat-soluble form of 3-MCPD where it can dissolve in oil5. When 3-MCPD esters are consumed, they are converted to 3-MCPD in the digestive system1.

The amount of 3-MCPD esters produced depends on many factors. This includes how much acyl glycerides and chloride is present, the temperature and duration of heating, and acidity levels6.

How does Musim Mas tackle 3-MCPD

We implement multiple mitigation strategies to reduce 3-MCPD throughout our value chain, such as those mentioned in the Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards, and continuously explore innovative technologies.

At Musim Mas Group’s refineries, we achieved various domestic and international food safety standards for our products, including refined palm oil, palm olein, palm stearin, specialty fats, and oleochemical food ingredients. Some of our certifications are FSSC 22000ISO 22000, HACCP MS 1480, and HACCP SNI CAC/RCP 1:2011.

Each certification is specific to the type of product, production plant, and process. For example, the manufacturing of our refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) palm oil at PT Musim Mas Belawan is certified under FSSC 22000.

We’ve worked closely with global brands for many years, meeting their specific needs based on their unique applications. We use internationally approved identification methods to test our products to ensure an accurate measurement of 3-MCPD in our products, providing customer confidence.

For food manufacturers looking to export to Europe, having a reliable partner with experience, full supply chain excellence, and capability is of utmost importance. To find out more, click here to contact us or email us at for our specialists to assist you.