Beware, your coconut oil is probably contaminated

By Shaadya Ismail

Adulteration of coconut oil is widespread in the country today. Senior officials of the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) said the reason behind the adulteration of coconut oil was the shortfall in production which resulted in the inability to meet local demand.

CRI Chairman Jayantha Jayewardene told the Sunday Times that while the country required aproximately 160,000 metric tonnes of coconut oil, current production was a mere 90,000 metric tonnes. Unscrupulous traders had resorted to adulterating coconut oil to meet the shortfall as well as to increase their profits.

According to Mr. Jayewardene the price of pure coconut oil is high, and beyond the reach of ordinary folk. Traders have thus begun to mix palm oil both as a means of providing consumers with a cheaper product as well as to make exhorbitant profits for themselves.

Mr. Jayewardene emphasised, the reason behind the adulteration of coconut oil was profit motivation.

Today the country imports palm oil from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand he said, but there have been allegations that inferior/impure quality of oil is being imported.
Consumer Affairs Authority Chairman (CAA), Hasitha Tillekeratne told the Sunday Times adulteration of coconut oil occurred mainly at bulk sales points. Packetted or bottled oil were generally free of adulteration he said.

He added officers of his department raided sales points of wholesalers of coconut oil in Pettah last month and made it mandatory for sellers to include the name of the manufacturer, date of manufacture, expiry dates and the maximum retail prices.He added adulteration of coconut oil was illegal, and added the reason behind these illegal acts was greed for profit.

He also accused traders of mixing industrial oils used in the manufacture of soap in their mad pursuit of profit.

Mr. Tillekeratne added under provisions of the Food Act of the Health Ministry the CAA had taken prompt action against miscreants in an effort to protect consumers.

“We have taken legal action against those caught adulterating coconut oil, introduced new regulations, conducted raids and confiscated and destroyed adulterated products” he said.

Ashoka Pushpakumara, Assistant Director of Quality Control and Quality Assurance at the Coconut Development Authority said a tell-tale sign that coconut oil is adulterated is the price difference in the product. The price of pure coconut oil is high, adulterated products are sold at cheaper rates he said

“When the coconut oil prices are high then the mills and the wholesale marketers mix pure coconut oil with palm oil in order to cut costs and earn large profits”, he charged.

Mr. Pushpakumara revealed that some millers and wholesalers even mix fatty acids like, lard (pig fat) and tallow (cow fat) into the coconut oil.

“Any form of adulteration is an act of misleading customers for which legal action can be taken”, he said.

Managing Director ‘Heritage Lanka’ Peter Jayatilake claimed all coconut oil sold between Rs.150 and Rs.200 is adulterated.

“Coconut oil can be produced without adulteration, however the cost of producing a bottle of pure coconut oil is at least Rs.450/-. If so, how is it possible to sell pure coconut oil at Rs.150/- in the open market”, he asked.

Mr. Jayatilake said Heritage Lanka produced ‘Virgin Coconut oil’ which is colourless. He cautioneded that unscrupulous traders had commenced using a chemical process to make adulterated coconut oil colourless. This product produces ill-effects he warned. The price difference is an indication of the product having been adulterated he said.

Mr. Jayatillake blamed the high cost of pur coconut oil for the burgeoning adulteration taking place in the coconut oil industry.

Courtesy -Sunday Times-

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