Abstract - Work on mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH) contaminating food is reviewed up to about 2010, when the subject received broad publicity. It covers the period of the main discoveries and elimination or reduction of the dominant sources: release agents used in industrial bakeries, spraying of rice, additions to animal feed, contamination of edible oils from various sources and migration from paperboard packaging. In most cases highly refined (“white”) oils were involved, but also technical oils, e.g. from the environment, and more or less crude oil fractions from jute and sisal bags. There were numerous unexpected sources, and there might still be more of those. The exposure of the consumers to MOH must have been markedly reduced in the meantime. Environmental influx may have become dominant, particularly when taking into account that these MOH go through several degradation processes which might enrich the species resisting metabolic elimination. Major gaps are in the systematic investigation of sources and the largely unavoidable levels from environmental contamination, but also in the toxicological evaluation of the various types of hydrocarbons. A regulation is overdue that avoids the present discrepancy between the low tolerance to MOH perceived as contaminants and the very high legal limits for some applications – the MOH are largely the same.