Last reviewed 24 March 2022

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have advised consumers that some food products labelled as containing sunflower oil may instead contain refined rapeseed oil.

This is happening to maintain the supply of certain food products containing ingredients that have become increasingly difficult to source because of the conflict in Ukraine, they explained.

The majority of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and food businesses are reporting that supplies are likely to run out in a few weeks with some businesses already experiencing severe difficulties.

As this has led to some food manufacturers urgently replacing sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil before being able to make the change on the label, the Agencies are advising that consumers should be aware of this and look out for additional information being provided by retailers and manufacturers.

FSA Chief Executive, Emily Miles, said: "FSA and FSS have been working hard to understand the recent pressures on our food supply chain and the interim measures needed to make sure certain foods — like crisps, breaded fish, frozen vegetables and chips — remain on sale here. We have looked at the immediate food safety risk of substituting sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil — particularly to people with a food allergy — and it is very low.”

A rapid risk assessment of the substitution of sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil can be found at www.food.gov.uk.

Speaking for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Chief Scientific Officer Kate Halliwell welcomed the decision but said that it was troubling that it had taken two weeks to reach this point.

“Over the coming months,” she went on, “unpredictable ingredient shortages will make further changes to recipes and product labels inevitable. We will continue to work with the UK and devolved governments to ensure there is a rapid process to agree short-term substitutions as unavoidable shortages arise.”