Comparative analysis of cooking oils in Fiji


The recent global financial crisis and subsequent devaluation of our dollar has seen the increased emergence of newer imported food items on our supermarkets shelves.
Recent legislations on food security, safety and regulatory efficiency has resulted in better appreciation of imported items, ingredients and expiry dates.
With ongoing Government directives to integrate national development into individual ministries, the Ministry of Health undertook an assessment of cooking oils imported into Fiji within the backdrop of health benefits/risks evaluation against financial costs to the people of Fiji.

Various cooking oils were analysed, including olive, canola, palm, coconut, palms and virgin coconut oils.

The results of literature search analysis indicated that canola oil was the best cooking oil in terms of health benefits and cost. Since Fiji imports large amounts of palm oil, rich in saturated fats, coconut oil can be a better alternative.

However, coconut oil has high saturated fat content and should be used in moderate amounts. Compared to coconut oil, pure virgin coconut oil is healthier because it contains antioxidants that might have other positive health benefits.
Larger scale, commercial production of pure virgin coconut oil will make an impact on the livelihood of rural populations resulting from their local consumption and increase potential for export markets.
Traditionally Pacific Islanders source of fats were from coconuts. Transnational manufacturers of foods including corn and soya bean oil have down played the health benefits of coconut oil when cold pressed and pure virgin oil is extracted.

The current commercial production of current coconut oil leaves much to be desired from a health focus. The process of heating courses irreversible changes to the oil that has been highlighted.

Stakeholder Assessment
A stakeholder review between the ministries of Health and Agriculture, South Pacific Commission, and Commerce and Trade was undertaken, as a pre-requisite to a coconut forum to be conducted in June 2010.
The Ministry of Health recommends that consideration be given to using less oil in the domestic environment. That pure virgin oil is a reasonable alternative to palm and palm-vegetable oil. With larger scale commercial production of pure virgin coconut oil over the next three to five years, the market can determine the price tariff of locally produced cooking oils against imported varieties.