The European Union recalled Ukrainian sunflower oil imports after Greek authorities discovered 3,000 tons of contaminated Ukrainian oil last month. Spain, Italy and Switzerland have also reported finding contaminated oil. Further tests have discovered an additional 3,060 tons were tainted.
European Union authorities found high traces of mineral oil in the imports. News of the contaminated oil was communicated to other EU countries through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed leading the 27 member EU to halt further shipments of Ukrainian sunflower oil and demand that Ukrainian authorities implement strict checks before shipping it to Europe.
вЂњStarting from the moment when it became known about contamination of Ukrainian-made oil with mineral oil, the European Commission on Health and Consumer Protection demanded that the Ukrainian authorities conduct an investigation and provide its results regarding how and where this could happen,вЂќ Nina Papadulaki, a spokeswoman for the EU Health Commissioner, told Novynar.
The EU is demanding guarantees that samples of oil are taken and analyzed for mineral oil before being exported to the EU. According to Papadulaki, Ukraine has already promised to run an investigation and to conduct tests. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine is preparing a detailed report on the results of the analyses for the European Commission.
The oil however, was analyzed and showed that the concentration of mineral oil found is not hazardous to health.
At the same time Papadulaki notes that Ukrainian government officials could not guarantee that oil exports to the EU would stop during the investigation, even though the European Commission officially stated this demand.
Ukrainian specialists who have examined the sunflower oil say that the concentration of mineral oil is too high to be an accidental case and confirmed that the contamination of the oil happened in Ukraine, when the oil was transported from a producer to an export ground.
But some Ukrainian experts believe this case is a way for European oil producers to try and rid the European market of a competitor. вЂњWhen a rookie comes to the European market, he should not be surprised that oldtimers of the market will apply any means to protect their markets,вЂќ said a source who works in an organization that oversees issues of trade and investment between the EU and Ukraine who wanted to remain anonymous.
вЂњWhile some people hold that Ukraine has to check the quality of its oil, other people are confident that the EU also must check the situation in its market in terms of cartel collusion and price inflation.вЂќ
Sunflower oil producers are nervous though, as testing of Ukrainianproduced oil has begun. Analysis of halfliter Shchedryi Dar showed that the content of mineral oil in the analyzed oil was 0.06 percent. According to Alfred C. Toepfer International, a company that ordered the analysis, this level is six times higher than normal.
The brandвЂ™s producer, Kernel Group, refuted the information, saying that the testing by SGS Ukraine was conducted incorrectly. вЂњWe have an official letter from Fediol, a European Industry Federation, which says that the analysis method is not correct. SGS in Odesa conducts analysis according to this very method,вЂќ said Natalia Khvostova, director of human resources, organizational development and public relations for Kernel Group.
She assured that the company has results of the product analysis from an SGS laboratory in France. According to her, the data shows that the content of mineral oil in Kernel products вЂњis lower than the limit of determinability.вЂќ
Bunge Ukraine, which produces Oleina Vitaminna, also raised many questions during testing. The company said that this is the first time the market has encountered mineral oil in sunflower oil. For that reason, the norms for their content in this product do not exist. Up until now, international standards have not foreseen testing of oil in terms of content of such contaminants; however, from now on this will become the new rule.
Both Ukrainian and European officials declined to comment until the investigation is over. вЂњWe have a meeting now and this issue is part of the agenda,вЂќ Serhiy Kryuchkov, head of Trade and Economic Mission within the Representative Office of Ukraine to the EU.
James Wilson, President of EUUkraine Business Council, was also cautious.
вЂњUntil the investigation is over, it would be premature to give any comments regarding where and how the dirt got into the oil and whether it ever got into it,вЂќ said Wilson.
Ukrainian oil producers are worried that this will have a negative impact on their industry. Ukrainian oil producers have been hit hard because of export restrictions placed by the EU. Until the ban is lifted, Ukrainian oil producers will be forced to stop producing sunflower oil, said Stepan Kapshuk, head of Ukroliyaprom Association. Since the EU ban, Ukraine has produced an additional 800,000 tons of oil, which is four times higher than the annual volume of domestic consumption, he said.
Autor: Olga Ivanenko