Country of origin labelling is among the top concerns for the European fats and oils industry, according to FEDIOL, the federation representing the European vegetable oil and proteinmeal industry.
The Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation is due to enter into EU law in December next year, but FEDIOL hopes that the Commission will reconsider a draft plan to include oils under country of origin labelling (COOL) rules.
“Country of origin labelling is an area that triggers some concern from our side,” said FEDIOL director general Nathalie Lecocq.
She told FoodNavigator that for businesses that use different sources of the same oil variety, COOL labelling would be prohibitively complicated.
“The idea to have full segregation of your supply is a nightmare vision,” she said. “If we had to do this it would not only make business extremely complicated, but it would drive some of our companies out of business, because the cost would be so immense….It is impossible to handle – and the value added to the consumer is close to nil, because the oil coming from Ukraine or Poland or Germany has no special identity that requires this information. There is no specific value added.”
The Commission is currently working on a draft proposal on this issue for inclusion in the FIC regulation.
“We have made our points and we have to see what the Commission comes up with,” she said. “I hope there is some understanding of the practical problems associated with this.”
Vegetable oil labelling under FIC
COOL labelling is not the only labelling issue under FIC regulation that involves the oils sector; the new rules will also require food manufacturers to specify the type of vegetable oil contained in a product. Currently, they are allowed to use the generic phrase ‘vegetable oil’ in ingredient lists.
“Industry is preparing to adjust. It will improve transparency, and I think that’s probably a good thing,” she said.
However, she acknowledged that there was some work to do on communicating with the public about palm oil, its origin and function in foods.
“Some may consider that since palm oil will need to be identified, that may be a problem, but […] oils have a specific function and it would be a mistake to think we need to get rid of one oil because it is imported.”
She added: “We do think some of the issues about these oils need to be addressed and we are promoting sustainability…We still have a year to communicate.”