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Food Safety Focus (57th Issue, April 2011) – Food Incident Highlight

Oil and Food Safety

Recently, there are unfounded messages circulating on the Internet and via e-mail about the health concerns of canola oil associated with mustard gas, bovine spongiform encephalopathy and fatty degeneration in organs. The Centre for Food Safety also received public enquiries regarding this issue.

Misinformation about the safety of canola oil may arise from the erroneous belief that it is the same as rapeseed oil. In fact, canola is developed from traditional cross breeding of the rapeseed plant with unwanted traits removed. Hence, canola oil has only low levels of erucic acid (below 2% total fatty acids), contrary to rapeseed oil which may contain high levels of erucic acid (up to 60% total fatty acids). Health concern on excessive intake of erucic acid is related to its potential to cause heart tissue damage in animal studies.

Canola oil is low in saturated fat and has high proportion of unsaturated fat. It is safe for consumption as part of a balanced diet.