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.