National agencies allow flexibility due to Ukraine-related supply issues

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National authorities have issued a series of guidelines due to the conflict in Ukraine affecting the food supply chain.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said it was aware companies may have difficulty sourcing certain foods such as sunflower oil and other raw materials and ingredients. used to produce certain foods. The EU requires that the type of oil used in the products be indicated.

The crisis in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia and Belarus are forcing food companies to omit or substitute certain ingredients or change the manufacturing process or recipe, in the short term.

Advice from the regulatory agency
The need to quickly change ingredients could mean that companies may not be able to comply with EU food labeling rules in Regulation 1169/2011, and ingredient listing requirements , the nutritional declaration or the indications of the country of origin.

The FSAI allows the use of additional stickers or inkjet printing on existing food labels. The guidelines remind companies to maintain traceability records and update HACCP plans when ingredients have been replaced.

Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency said some products labeled as containing sunflower oil may instead contain refined rapeseed oil.

Most of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine, with Russia making up a substantial share of the rest. Companies report that sunflower oil supplies will likely run out in a few weeks.

Some food manufacturers replaced sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil before they could make the change on the label.

Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA, said the agency was trying to figure out the interim measures needed to ensure foods like crisps, breaded fish, frozen vegetables and crisps remain on sale.

“We looked at the immediate food safety risk of replacing sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil – particularly for people with food allergies – and it’s very low. We know that allergic reactions to canola oil are very rare and, if they occur, are mild.

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, deputy food director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Where sunflower oil exists as an ingredient in products, retailers will substitute 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 print alternative oil information on existing labels.

EU countries take action
Sunflower oil has also been replaced by palm oil, soybean oil and rapeseed oil, according to FEDIOL, the European vegetable oil and protein meal industry association.

Another problem is that sourcing imports from other countries is hampered by stricter maximum residue limits (MRLs) in the EU compared to those countries or Codex limits. However, Member States facing severe shortages may set temporary national MRLs.

Spain is one of many European countries that have introduced temporary measures. The Swedish Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) said companies that need to make quick changes should be able to use pre-printed packaging without changing the label, until they run out.

But they must show that the shortage is due to what is happening in Ukraine, that substitute ingredients cannot cause allergies, that mislabeled packaging is replaced as soon as possible and that consumers must be informed of a another way.

In Denmark, problems have arisen for companies regarding the supply of products such as linseed, sunflower oil and lectin.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) has temporarily accepted that until the packages already printed are sold out, some labels may be incorrect. This is conditional on compliance with allergen legislation and the consumer not being misled.

There is no obligation to put up a sign in stores with the change in the list of ingredients on a given food. However, in cases where the change is deemed “significant”, a notice may be required to avoid misleading consumers. Food producers are responsible for this assessment.

The Finnish Food Agency (Ruokavirasto) said companies must report changes to ingredients and substitute raw materials on their website and provide information to trade. Written records of affected foods should also be kept separately as part of self-monitoring. The measures will remain in effect until September 30, 2022.

The European Commission considers food security in the region is not at stake but prices will rise and is against countries protecting domestic supply with export restrictions or bans.

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