France allows ingredient swaps as war in Ukraine hits sunflower oil supply

·2-min read

France has loosened food packaging rules to temporarily allow manufacturers to replace sunflower oil with other ingredients in the face of supply problems due to the war in Ukraine.

Food manufacturers had alerted the economy ministry several weeks ago about sunflower oil supply issues, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the world's largest sunflower seed grower and sunflower oil exporter. The war has blocked exports and planting and harvesting of the crops has been disrupted.

After negotiations, manufactures have received the green light from French authorities to replace sunflower oil with other ingredients like colza or even palm oil without immediately changing ingredient lists printed on packaging.

According to the consumer protection arm of the economy ministry, the exemptions could apply to up to a thousand products, in particular fried foods like crisps, chips or breaded items, and margarine, sauces, biscuits and spreads, like Nutella.

Sunflower oil is also found in products, like chocolates, as lecithin, a food additive that works as an emulsifier or flavour enhancer.

Food manufacturers have a maximum of six months to change the packaging on the products concerned, but within two months they must indicate that recipes have changed.

The ministry has not provided any guidance on how this will be done, but it could take the form of stickers or QR codes to be scanned in supermarket aisles.

In cases when the new ingredients include allergens, or they no longer heed other claims on the packaging, like “100% organic” or “without palm oil”, manufacturers will have to indicate recipe changes immediately.

The ministry introduced the flexibility after discussions with the food industry as well as consumer protection groups.

Foodwatch, a European food quality watchdog NGO, praised the “transparence of the authorities” in developing the regulations, but warns that consumers will have trouble figuring out all the new information.

It is calling, via a petition, for food manufacturers and the distributors of the products to make an effort to provide information easily in supermarket aisles or directly on products themselves, so that consumers are aware of any new ingredient.

(with AFP)

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