Ensuring the safety and quality of the nation's palm oil are of paramount importance as more than 80 per cent of the commodity is used for food products. As such, industry players must address the issue of 3-MCPDE (3-Monochloropropane-1, 2-diol esters) and GE (Glycidyl esters) effectively.
These are contaminants that can occur in edible oils, such as vegetable oils, and food made from these oils. Food manufacturers and consumers use edible oils as an ingredient in food and for cooking.
During industrial refining, 3-MCPDE and GE can form in edible oils when they are heated at very high temperatures to remove unwanted tastes, colors and odors.
In July 2019, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) adopted a Code of Practice (COP) for the reduction of 3-MCPDEs and GEs in refined vegetable oils and food products made with them.
The COP guides how producers and users can reduce 3-MCPD and GE levels through good practices in agriculture, manufacturing and oil selection in food products.
The CAC is a body established to develop, harmonies and implement international food standards under the Joint United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Food Standards Programme.
Governments refer to the CAC food standards to protect the health of consumers.
It has been more than two years since the CAC adopted the COP. We must be ready with sufficient data from the commercial runs so that our voice can be heard when the CAC approves new work for setting up the maximum limits for 3-MCPDE and GE in refined oils and fats after three years of adoption of the COP.
At MPOB, efforts are in place to ensure the 3-MCPDE and GE issue is being managed constructively as we cannot compromise on food safety. While resolving these issues, we need to consider the industry's concerns and views.
With these in mind, MPOB has agreed to the implementation of Licensing Conditions for 3-MCPDE and GE starting Jan 1, 2023.
The industry has ample time to procure and install the necessary equipment to reduce the contaminants.
We should not solely emphasize profitability. If we fail to meet the food safety and quality requirements, the oil palm supply chain will be affected.
Refineries need to stand firm when it comes to the quality of the CPO. They must ensure that its chloride content does not exceed two parts per million and reject those that fail to conform to the threshold. Refineries and mills must complement each other in ensuring the wellbeing of the palm oil industry.
The industry is one of the most regulated sectors in Malaysia, with laws and regulations to ensure that it complies with domestic and international standards.
In showing our commitment to food safety and quality, MPOB, with the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry and sister agencies, including the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council and Malaysian Palm Oil Council, as well as the Health Ministry, have reached a consensus to incorporate food safety compliance through the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification.
The inclusion of mandatory food safety compliance will not dilute the overall sustainability principles in MSPO.
Industry players should realize that food safety and quality could be the next trade barrier in the coming years.
Other food safety issues related to environmental contaminants are hovering on the horizon. These issues are linked to mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons, which are used as lubricants at mills and refineries.
We have to be alert and proactive to ensure the quality and safety of our palm oil so that the industry can sustain itself for another 100 years.
The writer is Dr. Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir, director-general of Malaysian Palm Oil Board. The above comments and opinions in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Asia Palm Oil Magazine’s view.