Malaysia has set out a time-line for its millers and refiners to comply with expected European legislation on the carcinogenic process contaminant, 3–MCPDE.

The EU is expected to introduce a maximum level of 2.5ppm for 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3–MCPDEs) in vegetable oils and fats on 1 January 2021, according to Rosidah Radzian, director of product development and advisory services at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

3-MCPDE is a carcinogenic process contaminant, along with glycidyl ester (GE), formed during edible oil refining, with palm oil having the highest levels among vegetable oils.

To pre-empt the EU legislation, Malaysia was planning to introduce regulations on 1 January 2021 for all refiners of no more than 2.5ppm for 3-MCPDEs in refined palm oil; 1.25ppm for 3-MCPDEs in palm kernel oil (PKO); and 1ppm for GEs for PKO, Radzian said.

“Our time line may change if the EU delays introducing its legislation,” Radzian said.

However, the country was working ahead to ensure that its refiners were ready when the expected EU limits were introduced.

To ensure changes within the milling sector, a Malaysian regulation would be introduced on 1 January 2020 banning all mills from mixing sludge oil and press fibre oil with crude palm oil (CPO).

On 1 July 2020, a maximum chlorine content of 2ppm in CPO would be mandatory for imported CPO. For domestic millers, the limit was a guideline as they could negotiate with refiners on the quality of oil they supplied.

Chlorine – which can come from fertilisers and pesticides – is a precursor in 3-MCPDE formation and millers can help mitigate formation by sterilising oil palm fruits and washing CPO with water.

Radzian said in terms of enforcing the regulations, the chief concern was with independent mills.

Malaysia had 52 refineries so they could be more easily monitored, she explained. However, 40% of the country’s palm oil was produced by smallholders, who could sell their oil to local independent mills or those belonging to large companies.

The EU already introduced GE regulations in February 2018 with a maximum level of 1ppm for vegetable oils and fats for final consumers, and stricter levels for infant and baby food.

The bloc’s proposed regulations for 3-MCPD and 3-MCPDEs are 1.25ppm for unrefined and refined oils and fats from coconut, maize, rapeseed, olive (except olive pomace oil) sunflower, soyabean and palm kernel; and 2.5ppm for other refined vegetable oils, including palm oil, olive pomace oil and fish oil. There will also be stricter maximum limits for baby and infant formulas and food.