Malaysian Palm Oil Council addresses contaminant concerns

Concerns about contaminants formed during edible oil processing, and their potential health implications, have been around for years, the council says

Recently, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council sponsored a webinar during which experts discussed the issues and the industry’s proactive approach to solutions.

Concerns about contaminants formed during edible oil processing, and their potential health implications, have been around for years. Mitigating the presence of some of the most concerning contaminants, such as 3-MCPD, has been complicated by cost and environmental issues. Much of this focus globally has been on palm oil, because it is one of the world’s most widely consumed edible oils.

The webinar, moderated by MPOC Science and Environmental Division Director Ruslan Abdullah, PhD, included panelists representing the biotechnology company Sumwin, the Oil and Fats Union of Russia and Malaysia’s Association of Enterprises of Confectionary Industry.

The chemical 3-MCPD and related substances called 3-MCPD esters, along with glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), are food processing contaminants found in some processed foods and vegetable oils, mainly palm oil. 3-MCPD and its esters are formed unintentionally in these foods, the panel said. They are often the result of naturally occurring inorganic chloride (from ocean salt) in conjunction with the heat used (typically about 200 degrees C) during the oil refining processes.

In January 2018, the European Food Safety Authority issued guidance that more than doubled the tolerable daily intake for 3-MCPD. In the meantime, there has been intensive work on ways to further reduce levels of MCPD esters in refined vegetable oils and fats. Palm oil producers, especially in Malaysia, have been actively implementing mitigation solutions for the reduction of glycidyl esters (GE) levels across all vegetable oils destined for food use.

Abdullah reiterated, consumers have the right to foods within safety limits, explaining some compounds have only recently been detected due to more sophisticated testing methods. He called for the need of balance between removing or reducing contaminants without increasing costs.

One such alternative was revealed by Sumwin, which has introduced a 3-MCPD and glycidyl mitigation process. This extraction process uses additive-free water, and there is virtually no oil loss, the company claims, making it an environmentally friendly process. With no moving parts, the extractor itself is practically maintenance free.

Palm oil has been heavily researched for its heart, liver and neurological health benefits. It’s estimated to be in half of all products found in markets including packaged foods, dairy and cosmetics, as well as some pet foods. A substantial percentage of the palm oil imported into the US is sourced from Malaysia, where it is certified sustainably produced.