Last reviewed 10 May 2022

We reported in March that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had advised consumers that some food products labelled as containing sunflower oil may instead contain refined rapeseed oil (see Supply issues may lead to substitution of ingredients).

Now it has announced that more fully refined oils may be used as ingredient substitutions as the UK’s supply of sunflower oil continues to be severely impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.

This latest update provides advice to consumers that fully refined palm oil, fully refined coconut oil and fully refined soybean oil are being used in some products without changes to the label being made.

FSA Chief Executive, Emily Miles, said: “It is an absolute priority for us that food is safe, and what it says it is. If industry decisions are made around the substitutions of these oils, we expect accurate labels to be prepared and printed as soon as possible so that consumers can be confident in the food they buy. Any inaccuracies in labelling must only be temporary.”

She confirmed that the Agency has carried out a rapid risk assessment on the three fully refined oils, focusing on people with a food allergy (see here for more details).

“The immediate food risk from fully refined palm oil and fully refined coconut oil is very low and for fully refined soybean oil it is negligible,” Ms Miles said, “which means that allergic reactions to these fully refined vegetable oils are very rare and — if they do occur — are mild.”

Where substitute oils are used, the FSA expects businesses to inform consumers about any related product change, whether that product is purchased in store or online, using, for example, point of sale notices and information on their websites.