Alarm as cooking oil firms are caught making false claims on US standards

Cooking oil manufacturers have been using American standards mark to dupe consumers about the level of cholesterol and vitamins in their products.

A Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) investigation has revealed that many cooking oil products made reference to United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) standards, creating the impression they had been tested by the Americans.

The authority tested the oil products which were found safe within the allowable Kenyan standards but were deemed to be misleading.

CAK said in the latest annual report edible oil manufacturer have up to May, this year, to correct the health standards claims on their product labels or face penalties.

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“Investigations established that some of the manufacturers of edible oils and fats were referencing the nutritional information of their products to the USFDA reference creating the false impression to consumers that the products were tested by USFDA,” CAK director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki said.

“Regarding levels of fortification and cholesterol the authority in its investigations established that the levels were within allowable levels according to the relevant Kenyan country standards,” he said.

The edible oils industry is huge in the country. According to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Kenya produces over 755,000 metric tonnes of edible oils.

As consumers become sophisticated they tend to be influenced by nutrition and dietary information details made by manufacturers when making purchase decisions.

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Consumers with health conditions or those who are watching their health tend to go for cooking oil brands that are considered healthy such as those fortified with nutrients or which lack cholesterol.

Consumers rely on the information given on product labels and the fact that the anti-trust body counterchecks such details.

“Consumers suffering from high cholesterol levels, for example, will choose cooking oils and fats which are cholesterol free so as not to aggravate their prevailing conditions,” Mr Wang’ombe said.

The law requires that all edible oils manufactured and sold in Kenya be fortified with vitamin A to address, among others, infertility, stunted growth in children and night blindness.

Kenya has tried to lock out edible oil imports citing quality claiming cheaper unfortified consignment is making its way into the market exposing local players to unfair competition.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) impounded 487 containers of edible vegetable cooking oil imports in May 2018 due to low vitamin A content.

A group of clearing and forwarding agents, however, sued the Kebs after the authority declined to clear their Sh800 million edible oil imports.

The companies protested the directive by Kebs asking them to re-ship the consignment back to Malaysia, the country of origin, within 30 days after it allegedly failed to comply with vitamin A standard requirement.

Kebs released part of the consignment saying of the 487 impounded containers, 295 had been declared fit, 82 pending declaration and 63 had been shipped out.

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