EFSA reviews guidance on transport of edible fats and oils

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Codex alimentarius Food

The European Food Safety Authority has reviewed the criteria for the bulk transport of edible oils and fats and made two recommendations for change.

Its proposals outline enhancements in terms of the number of previous cargoes on which records need to be maintained, as well as widening the scope of allergens not permitted in fats and oils.

Context and timeline

Five criteria regarding the transport of edible oils and fats was drawn up in 1996 – and updated seven years later - by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) in response to industry concerns that it was not economically viable to operate a fleet of ships engaged only in the carriage of edible fats and oils as they would have to return empty to their original loading ports.

The SCF criteria assessed the risk to human health arising from potential contamination of oils and fats shipped in tanks which may have been used to transport chemical substances.

The Codex Committee for Fats and Oils (CCFO) adopted the Recommended International Code of Practice for the Storage and Transport of Edible Oils and Fats in Bulk, which includes the Draft Codex List of Acceptable Previous Cargoes, which did not include criteria for the evaluation of substances.

In 2007, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, in collaboration with Dutch authorities, added four further criteria.

The CCFO amended these this year and forwarded for adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Committee.

EFSA findings

In completing its review of the criteria, EFSA has made a recommendation for previously acceptable cargoes for edible oils and fats set by the SCF.

“The criteria for evaluation of acceptable previous cargoes for edible fats and oils as proposed by the CCFO are not in conflict with any of the five criteria developed by SCF”, said a statement for the food safety watchdog.

The CCFO criteria specifically applied to immediate previous cargoes – particularly documentation. Criterion 1 does not identify for what number of previous cargoes records should be kept. EFSA’s panel has recommended that records from the three previous shipments should be kept.

“This might be particularly important in the event that earlier previous cargoes consist of substances for which an acceptable daily intake (ADI) or tolerable daily intake (TDI)) has not been established,”​ said the body’s CONTAM panel.


EFSA said it was in agreement with CCFO criterion 2, which states that “residues of the substance in the subsequent cargo of fat or oil should not result in adverse human health effects” It accepted the proposed threshold of an ADI (or TDI) of ≥ 0.1 mg/kg body weight.

In considering the situation of second and third previous cargoes the panel concluded there was no cause for concern for non-genotoxic substances as any carry over was “very limited”​. However, genotoxic substances, for which a threshold cannot be assumed, would not be acceptable as previous cargoes, it added.

Regarding the criterion 3 that “the substance should not be or contain a known food allergen, unless the identified food allergen can be adequately removed by subsequent processing of the fat or oil for its intended use”,​ the panel considered the scope of the CCFO criterion too narrow. It stated this should apply to all known allergens, and not just known food allergens, given the fact that the same cargo may be sold for cosmetic use.

The CONTAM Panel also welcomed the inclusion of a criterion to evaluate the acceptability of substances reacting with the oils or fats. CCFO criterion 4 acknowledged that most substances did not react with edible fats and oils under normal shipping and storage conditions.

“However, if the substance does react with edible fats and oils, any known reaction products must comply with criteria 2 and 3 (CCFO, 2009),”​ it said.

Commenting on the EFSA opinion, Stuart Logan chief executive of the Federation of Oils, Seeds and Fats Association (FOSFA), told FoodProductionDaily.com: “The industry is encouraged as the opinion supports the work of the previous SCF Committee whose criteria matched those of the industry which lead to the granting of the derogation from dedicated freight since 1996.

“The boarder scope for allergenicity will be welcomed by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The trading of oils already documents the previous three cargoes so this does not increase the burden on an importer. The review of the modified Codex criteria is also useful as no conflicts arose.”

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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