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Edible oil turns consumer-friendly

By Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-10 07:38
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. [Photo/VCG]

COFCO Fortune Food takes initiative to make product labels informative

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 Beijing-based 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 oil 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.

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