FSSAI gazetted the banning of all blended vegetable oils containing mustard oil earlier this year, but only recently issued a formal order to the food safety authorities in all states and Union Territories in India.
“Any multi-source edible vegetable oil containing mustard oil manufactured on or after June 8 2021 [is prohibited and all] multi-source edible vegetable oils shall not be sold in loose form [but] in sealed package weighing not more than 15kg,” said FSSAI CEO Arun Singhal via a formal notice.
According to Indian edible oils firm BL Agro, the reasoning behind this ban is the widespread use of mustard oil in adulteration due to its natural colour and pungency.
“A lot of adulteration in the edible oils industry was happening due to the blending of mustard oil with other oils, as its high pungency levels and colouration covered up any traces of poor quality even if the other oil use was very substandard,” BL Agro Managing Director Ashish Khandelwal told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“It got to the point where even when minimum amounts of mustard oil were used in a blend and it was mostly made of substandard oils, people were taking advantage and selling this as a mustard oil or mustard oil blend.
“So considering the practices associated with such oils, it was imperative to ban the blending of oils with mustard oil in the name of public interest, and mustard oil should not be permitted to be put in any kind of blend.”
Khandelwal added that in India, mustard oil is generally considered to be a more premium type of oil, similar to canola in other places, and mustard blended oils were generally also preferred due to having additional nutritional properties, but the frequency of oil adulteration had been hard on the reputations of both types of oils.
“Mustard oil has long been highly regarded as a premium product in India because it has the component allyl isothiocyanate that reduces skin irritation, which is frequent due to our many seasons and variations of temperature and humidity,” he said.
“It is also used in Ayurveda to relieve joint issues due to its uric acid content, and is also antifungal and antibacterial – so many consumers prefer mustard oil in India even if just for basic cooking and consumption.
“Proper mustard blended oils, such as mustard oil and rice bran oil blends, also carry benefits in terms of bringing additional nutritional properties from both types of oils, but because so many people were misusing blended oils, even reputable oil firms had to stop blending mustard oils, [and] this was also bad for the reputation of the oils – the hope is that this will now change.”
Mustard on the rise
In addition to BL Agro, edible oil industry body Central Organisation for Oil Industry & Trade (COOIT) said that the FSSAI ban would also lead to benefits higher up the supply chain.
“Mustard farmers will be encouraged to produce more mustard, which will mean more domestic mustard oil production which can help with reducing edible oil imports to some extent,” he said in a statement.
"Now since there will not be mixing of any other oil, the demand of pure mustard oil will increase."
Khandelwal agreed that this ban would provide benefits higher up the value chain as well, citing a leap in prices since the ban was announced.
“Previously mustard oil prices were in the INR4,300 (US$58.64) per ton range – after the ban, it has gone up to more like INR7,300 (US$99.55) which gives more incentive to the farmers by benefitting their financial position,” he said.
The hope now is also that with this ban, mustard oil will be restored to its former glory, and from BL Agro’s numbers, this seems to be happening.
“The outlook for mustard oil is definitely going up – at BL Agro, we have seen some 40% of 45% sales increase in this since last year [when word of the ban came out] and more people looked for pure mustard oil,” said Khandelwal.
“So the driver here is consumers gaining more awareness of the situation, and more consciousness about the benefits of mustard oil such as its nutritional benefits and ability to be consumed raw.”