Crisps, fries, margarine: sunflower oil can be replaced without specifying on the packaging

The shortage of sunflower oil, if it affects individuals, also concerns manufacturers. (©Hugo Murtas / news Rennes)

The war in Ukraine has melted sunflower oil stocks in France. If individuals are not spared by supply tensions, manufacturers are the first affected.

Indeed, we find this oil in many products, such as margarinethe chipsthe friesthe marinated meatsthe saucesthe biscuit factorythe pie dough or cooked meals.

Change recipe

So many foodstuffs that are under the threat of the shortage of sunflower oil which hits France, but also other European countries. As a reminder, “2/3, even 80% of the sunflower oil consumed in France comes from Eastern European countries”, explains the Ministry of the Economy, including Ukraine and Russia, therefore .

Faced with supply tensions, Bercy has decided to take measures for manufacturers. Concretely, they can reduce the amount of sunflower oil in a product or then substitute it with another vegetable oil, such as rapeseed, coconut, peanut or soybean oil.

The same goes for sunflower lecithin, an additive, which can be replaced with another lecithin.

Decision that will reduce the tension on sunflower oiltension which could continue for several weeks or even months, according to the government.

About a thousand products would be affected.

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Time for packing

While these recipe changes will be effective once a waiver has been requested by the manufacturer from the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), producers are not not obliged to change their packaging immediately.

It takes time to change packaging.

Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention

Thus, manufacturers are granted a period of six months to modify the recipe on their labels: the famous list of ingredients, but also the nutritional values ​​that could be modified by replacing oil.

However, some will have to indicate a change of recipes beforehand depending on the product that will replace the sunflower oil.

If allergens are added

Thus, several scenarios are available to producers, the answers to be given are different.

Products which would be reformulated using an ingredient likely to induce a risk for the consumer are the subject of direct information on their labeling, in a visible and legible manner.

Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention

In concrete terms, a sticker may be affixed to items indicating that an allergen is present in the new product recipe.

This device will allow the buyer to check before putting the product in their supermarket trolley.

Bercy specifies, “the cases of allergen addition only concern soy (via the introduction of soy lecithin) and peanuts (via the introduction of peanut oil) to date”. However, the DGCCRF does not exclude that in the future other allergens may be added.

What about taste?

Contacted by actu.fr, the NGO foodwatch, tells us that the taste, the quality of the product or the nutritional values ​​could be modified by a possible substitute for sunflower oil. However, as we do not yet know if these changes will be total or only partial, it is impossible for the moment to have this information.

If false information remains on the product

There is also the case where a product that claims to be “GMO-free”, “palm oil-free” or from “organic farming” would no longer be so following an oil change.

In order to respect ” the fairness of consumer information”a sticker will have to cover the marketing aspect or the new recipe will have to be indicated clearly and visibly.

If the change is not “significant”

If the modification is not very “important” for the consumer, it does not change anything in terms of risk or marketing, well producers will have two months to change the commodity information.

Different techniques can then be adopted: affix a sticker with a change in recipe, but Bercy recognizes that this is not necessarily obvious for all production lines.

Then, the other proposed solution, considered simpler, will be towrite the information next to the use-by dates. “Industrialists have a little leeway,” says the DGCCRF.

In this place, however inconspicuousthe nature of the change may be indicated and at least will be written ” DEROG » to indicate that the recipe has been changed.

A very discreet mention, insufficient for foodwatch, especially since it is currently unknown on which products this stamp (not generalized) will appear.

food watchNGO

Foodwatch also warns of the “consumer’s access to information puzzle”, indicating that “for other foods, no information will be affixed to the packaging. A simple display is planned on the shelves, at the checkout and at the entrance to the store to indicate that there are exemptions on certain products. »

A QR code will be present on this display which will link to a government database. Indeed, to facilitate information, the DGCCRF has set up a search platform so that the consumer can search for the product reference.

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