FIC vegetable oil labelling rules have not led to mass reformulation, says EPOA

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

There has not been a big move away from palm oil ahead of the new law
There has not been a big move away from palm oil ahead of the new law

Related tags: Palm oil

Fears that manufacturers would reject palm oil in the wake of FIC regulations have proven to be unfounded, according to the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA).

The Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation is due to come into force across the EU on December 13, and with it a requirement to identify specific vegetable oils on ingredient lists. Currently food manufacturers can either list the particular oil – rapeseed, sunflower, soy, etc. – or they can use the generic term ‘vegetable oil’.

The palm oil industry had feared that the rules would lead to mass reformulation, as manufacturers responded to perceived consumer concerns about palm oil’s sustainability and health effects. However, this has not happened, the EPOA says.

“In the run up to the new food labelling, we were expecting a big move away from palm oil,” ​EPOA programme manager Margot Logman told FoodNavigator. “There is not a big move. There are a few companies that moved, but overall we have not seen a big move away from palm oil.”

The association, which is dedicated to providing information on sustainably sourced palm oil, is among the organisers of a conference in Brussels on December 9 to coincide with the introduction of FIC laws later in the week.

“We just want to make sure that people are not panicking,”​ Logman said.

Speaking with this publication a year ago, Nathalie Lecocq, director general of the association representing Europe’s edible oils industry, FEDIOL, said the palm oil industry still had work to do to communicate with the public about palm oil, its origin and function in foods.

“We have seen a lot of activity going on, both on the nutrition side and on sustainability. It’s certainly been helpful in addressing some of those concerns about palm,” ​she said this morning.

She also predicted that labelling palm oil would not necessarily lead to reformulation. A year later, she says she has been proven correct.

There has for sure been a stagnation of palm use over the past three or four years, but it’s not been the big drop that some had feared,”​ she said.

Over the past four years, Lecocq said palm oil use was down about 10% in Europe. Last year, she pointed out that oils have a specific function that can’t always be replicated. “It would be a mistake to think we need to get rid of one oil because it is imported,”​ she said at the time.

Some palm oil producers have also said​ that the FIC regulations have spurred manufacturers to source more sustainable palm oil. 

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2 comments

Mr Kvitvik statement is only partly correct

Posted by Mr. hennie slager Fellow application,

The statement he comments on mentions "cannot always". Which he then denies. I advice him to dig into the fact that from palm oil you can make a fat by just physical means, with the properties of a cocoa butter. ( very hard nice melting point, no trans fatty acids) I challenge him to show me a fat like that based on his suggested other fat raw materials. This is however not possible and unique for palm oil only; therefore the original statement is very much right in saying "cannot always ".
H. Slager 40 years application specialist in oils and fats.

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Palm oil can always be replaced.

Posted by Trond Kvitvik (M.Sc. Botany),

We will hear over and over this statement from the food industry:
"Palm oil has unique properties that cannot always be replaced"
This is just not true, palm oil can always be replaced by mixes of rapeseed/canola, sunflower, olive, coconut, shea oils etc.
The only thing that is unique with palm oil is that it is most favoured by the industry for among other things giving extended shelf life for the product and low cost, and that it is the oil product that has caused most deforestation and loss of biodiversity/nature (net. loss values that are not included in the price).

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