New edible oils guidance ‘not fit for purpose’

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Harrow: 'This change is creating a major issue for our members who cannot be certain which oils they will be able to buy in the coming months'
Harrow: 'This change is creating a major issue for our members who cannot be certain which oils they will be able to buy in the coming months'

Related tags Supply chain Labelling

New guidance for the labelling of edible oils in food and drink products has been criticised as ‘unfit for purpose by the British Frozen Foods Federation (BFFF).

Under the new guidance outlined by Food Standards Agency (FSA), any oil listed on the pack must also be present in the product.  

BFFF chief executive Richard Harrow warned that this move would lead to unnecessary costs and complexity at a time where war in Ukraine had forced food producers to switch to alternative oils to maintain production.  

With uncertainty surrounding the supply to continue for months – if not years – producers will be forced to continue to switch oils depending on the situation, with them forced to change their packaging every time that they do. 

Contradicting past guidance 

This was contrary to original guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the FSA that allowed manufacturers to list all oils that maty be present on pack, even if the specific oil was not in the final product.  

“Given the massive uncertainty around the availability of oils, this change is creating a major issue for our members who cannot be certain which oils they will be able to buy in the coming months,​ said Harrow. 

“What’s more, we’ve been told that enforcement of the derogation will be left to local authority trading standards, a situation that is bound to lead to inconsistent interpretation and confusion.” 

Risk of recalls  

Harrow also warned that running multiple different types of packaging to cover every variable of ingredients was not a viable option, since it would create the risk of factories using the wrong packaging and resulting in potential product recalls.  

“I am particularly concerned for members producing private label products as they may be faced with numerous requests for packaging changes,​ he added.  

“With lead times that can sometimes be months ahead, our members need to have certainty on how to deal with this situation. Some are preparing for Christmas production and supplies could be disrupted if this isn’t resolved. It is therefore vital that we find a more pragmatic solution to ensure businesses can continue to ensure supply.” 

Meanwhile, the cost of cooking oil will remain high as buyers chase availability, but opportunities are available to strengthen UK food security in the long run​, according to analysts at Shore Capital. 

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