Ed­i­ble oil turns con­sumer-friendly

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business -

COFCO For­tune Food Sales and Distri­bu­tion Co has said it will share with con­sumers de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about for­mu­la­tions, in­gre­di­ents and nutri­tion value of its blended ed­i­ble oil.

“This is the first ed­i­ble oil prod­uct in China to carry a la­bel con­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion like for­mula ra­tio and nutri­ent com­po­si­tion. We be­lieve dis­clos­ing such in­for­ma­tion will be the trend for do­mes­tic play­ers to stay com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket,” said Wang Qin­grong, gen­eral man­ager of COFCO For­tune Food.

The firm is the ed­i­ble oil pro­duc­tion unit of COFCO Corp, China’s big­gest agri­cul­tural prod­ucts sup­plier by rev­enue.

Wang Xing­guo, a pro­fes­sor of ed­i­ble oil pro­duc­tion and re­search at Jiang­nan Uni­ver­sity in Jiangsu province, said the la­bel move came ahead of planned gov­ern­ment mea­sures to up­date the na­tional stan­dards for blended ed­i­ble oil in China.

There have been sus­pi­cions that some ed­i­ble oil pro­duc­ers have been mis­us­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where there are no strict na­tional stan­dards, to sell spu­ri­ous com­modi­ties. Cheap oil has been sold as high-qual­ity oil on oc­ca­sion, de­ceiv­ing con­sumers and cre­at­ing chaos in the mar­ket.

As the world’s big­gest ed­i­ble oil mar­ket by con­sump­tion vol­ume, China con­sumes not only a range of ed­i­ble oils (like those made from corn, sun­flower, soy­bean, rape­seed, peanut, ground­nut) but also mil­lions of met­ric tons of ed­i­ble blended oil.

How­ever, in­for­ma­tion on nu­tri­ents and for­mu­la­tions have re­mained un­known to con­sumers of blended oils. This led to calls for full dis­clo­sures.

The ex­ist­ing norms formed in 2004 do not re­quire ed­i­ble oil mak­ers to dis­close prod­uct in­for­ma­tion on pack­ag­ing la­bels. This leaves con­sumers ig­no­rant and un­able to make in­formed choices while buy­ing, re­sult­ing in the pur­chase of low-qual­ity ed­i­ble oils.

Wang Ruiyuan, head of oil and oilseeds branch of the Bei­jing­based Chi­nese Ce­re­als and Oil As­so­ci­a­tion, said the in­dus­try body found that some com­pa­nies have been sell­ing cook­ing oil un­der the name of blended olive oil, in which olive oil ac­counts for only 0.8 per­cent.

Sim­i­larly, blended peanut oil has less than 2 per­cent of it, with the rest be­ing cheaper soy­bean oil and rape­seed oil.

As China is un­der­go­ing a con­sump­tion up­grade that is caus­ing a boom in cer­tain com­mod­ity sales, some ed­i­ble oiol com­pa­nies are keen to tran­si­tion from in­dus­trial sup­pli­ers to con­sumer-serv­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers.

A mea­sure they are adopt­ing is the in­clu­sion of in­gre­di­ent and nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion in pack­ag­ing la­bels. An­other mea­sure is or­ga­niz­ing “open days” at their plants to in­vite con­sumers to check the man­u­fac­tur­ing process for them­selves.

Wang said such meth­ods can ef­fec­tively break through the in­dus­try’s “hid­den rules”, hon­or­ing con­sumers’ “right to know” more about ed­i­ble oil prod­ucts.

Since the on­go­ing sup­ply-side struc­tural re­form will bring ben­e­fit to more sec­tors, the newly devel­oped na­tional food safety stan­dards for ed­i­ble oils will be re­leased on Dec 21 by the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion and the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Mar­ket Reg­u­la­tion, Wang said.

The big­gest fea­ture of the new stan­dard is that in the fu­ture, the re­quire­ment to rec­on­cile oil must be marked with the ra­tio of oil com­po­nents.

The gov­ern­ment also en­cour­ages ed­i­ble oil man­u­fac­tur­ers to in­di­cate the con­tent of fatty acids above 2 per­cent in their prod­uct in­for­ma­tion, he said.

COFCO For­tune Food has de­ployed more re­sources into brand pro­mo­tion, brand man­age­ment, and prod­uct distri­bu­tion for both home- and for­eign-made food prod­ucts in re­cent years.

In ad­di­tion to sup­ply­ing blended ed­i­ble oil, it also pro­duces corn oil, sun­flower seed oil, peanut oil, rape­seed oil and soy­bean oil.

China pledged ear­lier this year that it will in­ten­sify ef­forts to im­prove the qual­ity of its ed­i­ble oil and grain prod­ucts. The State Grain and Re­serves Ad­min­is­tra­tion said the new mea­sures can ben­e­fit con­sumers, farm­ers and the sec­tor as a whole, be­sides strength­en­ing the on­go­ing “Healthy China 2030” cam­paign.

The gov­ern­ment will im­prove stan­dards for high-qual­ity ed­i­ble oils and grains, and es­tab­lish a test and eval­u­a­tion sys­tem soon, and a su­per­vi­sory reg­u­la­tion is also be­ing drafted, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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