French food firms given permission to change recipes for crisps, cookies and ready-meals because of sunflower oil shortage

The French government has allowed food manufacturers to temporarily change their recipes without changing ingredients on the packaging because of a shortage of sunflower oil caused by the war in Ukraine.

French food firms given permission to change recipes for crisps, cookies and ready-meals because of sunflower oil shortage
Empty shelves where sunflower oil is usually found at a supermarket in Paris. (Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP)

Following consultation between food manufacturers and the government, authorities said that manufacturers of margarine, crisps, sauces, cookies or ready-meals can for six months replace sunflower oil with food-grade oils from other sources in their recipes without altering details on their packaging. 

All changes in recipes subject to a waiver will be referenced on the website of the Direction générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des fraudes (DGCCRF). 

In the meantime, customers should expect to soon see stickers on affected products indicating that ingredients have changed. There is no requirement for manufacturers to indicate which ingredient has been replaced.

In the case of the addition of allergenic products, however, or where the packaging contains claims that are no longer true, such as “100% organic”, for example, the indication of a change in recipes must be made immediately.

According to the Economy Ministry, up to 1,000 thousand products could be subject of exemption requests, including fried and breaded products, margarine, sauces, pasta, and pastries.

French supermarkets have already said that customers should avoid panic buying sunflower oil as they hold enough stock for several months’ supply. 

READ ALSO French sunflower oil shortage ’caused by panic-buying’

The Foodwatch association welcomed “the effort for transparency from the authorities” in relation to the current situation, but in a statement on its website called on “manufacturers and distributors undertake to inform us clearly on the shelves and online, for each product, transparently and without delay”. 

“We want to know about these ingredient changes, their duration and their rationale,” Foodwatch said.

“The need for flexibility to avoid production disruptions is understandable, and we understand that there may be occasional deviations from the ingredient lists. But it in no way prevents manufacturers from communicating clearly on these changes: no exemptions from our right to information.”

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French electricity grid operator to return €1 billion to clients

France's electrical grid operator RTE said on Wednesday that it would hand at least one billion euros back to major power users in early 2023, as its revenues have surged during Europe's energy crisis.

French electricity grid operator to return €1 billion to clients

The exact amount will “match the one-off profit forecast for 2022 with the electricity market under stress,” the largely state-owned RTE said in a statement.

It added that the reimbursement could reach a record of more than €1.5 billion.

The move comes as public pressure is growing for an EU-wide tax on the “super-profits” generated by energy companies as prices have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Almost 380 large-scale electricity buyers in industry would share around €130 million from the pot, RTE finance and purchasing director Laurent Martel told AFP.

The companies include chemical plants, metalworking sites, steelmaking operations as well as paper and cardboard factories.

But most of the payout — around 90 percent — will go to operators of local low- and medium-voltage networks, which bridge the gap between RTE and end users of electricity, from industry to households.

RTE’s revenues have been especially strong this year thanks to fees paid to use its so-called “interconnectors” across national borders.

These depend in part on the difference in electricity prices between France and its neighbours, which soared this year due to the energy crunch from the war in Ukraine and a large chunk of the country’s nuclear reactor fleet being under maintenance.

RTE said that without its plan to bring forward the reimbursement, the payments would instead be spread over several years.