Food manufacturers changing recipes as UK faces sunflower oil shortage 3 months ago

Food manufacturers changing recipes as UK faces sunflower oil shortage

The UK's leading sunflower oil bottler says it only has a few weeks of supply left

Manufacturers of foods such as crisps and chips are having to alter their recipes as the UK faces a shortage of sunflower oil.

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Edible Oils, which packages three quarters of the oil for the UK retail market, says it has just a few weeks of supply left because of the war in Ukraine which has caused major disruption to its supply chain.

A whopping 80 percent of the global supply of sunflower oil comes out of Russia and Ukraine.

Foods such as crisps, oven chips and cereal bars all contain sunflower oil, and the shortage is so concerning that manufacturers of these products are having to alter their recipes.

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Kim Matthews, commercial director at Edible Oils, told the BBC: “From a UK consumer perspective, sunflower oil is the biggest oil. It’s used more than anything else.

"It’s a fast moving situation. We’re still trying to see if we can get some more but it’s looking very tight.

"At the moment, Ukrainian farmers should be sowing the seeds now for the harvest in October and November. Clearly that’s not going to happen…. we’re probably going to miss the season so we could be impacted for 12-18 months.”

Manufacturers are replacing sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil, but because the change is having to happen to quickly, some are unable to change their product labelling in time.

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Some food labels may say the product contains sunflower oil when in fact it has been substituted with refined rapeseed oil (iStock)

This has forced the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to warn that some food products that are labelled as containing sunflower oil may in fact contain refined rapeseed oil instead.

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

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"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.

"We are therefore advising that food products labelled as containing sunflower oil may instead have been produced using refined rapeseed oil and consumers should look out for additional information being provided by retailers and manufacturers  to stay informed."

It added that the food safety risk of this substitute is "very low."

Other products which usually contain sunflower oil include ready meals, biscuits and mayonnaise.

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FSA chief executive Emily Miles said: “We know allergic reactions to rapeseed oil are very rare and – if they do occur – are mild.

“Retaining consumer trust remains an absolute priority for both organisations and we are urgently working with the food industry and other partners to ensure labels on food where sunflower oil has been replaced by refined rapeseed oil are made accurate as soon as possible.”

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, the director of food for the British Retail Consortium, said: “The war in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of sunflower oil to the UK. Where sunflower oil exists as an ingredient in products, retailers will be substituting it with other safe oils, such as rapeseed oil.

“Retailers are looking to change product labels as soon as possible; where sunflower oil is a key ingredient, such as crisps, retailers will imprint information on substitute oil onto existing labels.

“Retailers’ customer services will be answering questions on all their own brand products.”

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