By Nyasha Chingono
COOKING oil manufacturers have expressed concern over cooking oil dealers selling sub-standard products, exposing the public to health hazards. Most of the cooking oil dealers sell their products on the sidewalks and along major highways. They have posed competition to manufactures, whose costs of production are high owing to high utility costs and foreign currency shortages.
Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe (OEAZ) president, Busisa Moyo, said the vendors were short-changing consumers. OEAZ is the body that represents major cooking oil manufacturers the United Refi neries, Surface Wilmur, Olivine and Willowton. “While we understand the plight of the unemployed, we are concerned about sub-standard products being sold in competition with certifi ed plants’ and safe cooking oil and related products,” said Moyo.
The cooking oil vendors also sell used oil from fast food outlets, which is unsafe for the public. Moyo said consumers were opting for cheaper products than the safe vegetable oil sold through retail outlets. “This may also encourage formal players to cut corners to survive if it is not managed well,” said Moyo. Zimbabwe’s economy has become more informal and is now characterised by a booming vending population where consumers are exposed to unsafe products.
The cooking oil may contain afl atoxins, which are harmful to humans and cause cancer in some instances, according to studies. Afl atoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by molds which grow in soil and are regularly found in legumes. Soya beans are the major raw material for vegetable oil producers in the country.
This has given signifi cant cause for concern for the cooking oil industry, especially in developing countries where food storage conditions are more often sub-standard. Informal cooking oil expressers often crush sun fl owers without proper machinery and hygienic standards. Some of the cooking oil is sold using fake labels. As a remedy to the growing challenge, Moyo said formal players have been engaging the vending public to encourage them to sell safe oil.
“Through factory shops, formal players are reaching out to the vending public to buy safe oil that is packaged in hygienic conditions for resale and to earn a living,” Moyo said. Local cooking oil manufacturers provide about 90 percent of the country’s oil. Since the ban on the import of cooking oil last year, capacity utilisation among cooking oil manufacturers has soared.