Manufacturer, CPC react over blue band “spread” controversy

Following the release of a video online demonstrating how Blue Band “Spread for Bread” (a product of Unilever Nigeria PLC) reacts under certain heat conditions, with suggestions that the product may be unsafe for consumption, the manufacturer of the product has made attempts to address public concern by differentiating its products and explaining the purposes of the two different products.

Reacting to this, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) released a statement this week, announcing that it has opened an inquiry to determine the safety of the product, and to clarify aspects of the manufacturer’s statements.

According to the CPC, the purpose of this inquiry was to ensure the products, differentiated or otherwise, are safe and subjected to proper processes, and “in-trade” handling consistent with the different properties and characteristics of each product.

The Consumer Protection Council in the same statement, offered scientific information and explanation for the reactions displayed in the video.

It read in part, “Available scientific information confirms that, though butter, margarine, and spread appear analogous, and share similar components, characteristics and uses, they are different products available to consumers. Butter and margarine share a particular similar characteristic; low resistance to heat. As such, both are likely to melt when subjected to certain levels of heat. Spreads however, have varying heat resistance, depending on intended use, and production process. As a result, it is not necessarily unsafe that a spread does not melt under similar heat conditions as butter, or margarine.”

It explained further that spreads are produced in part by adding emulsifiers, which are additives used in stabilizing and binding processed foods. They are not inherently unsafe or uncommon. The specific emulsifying agent and amount used, largely depends on many factors including shelf life, storage, handling and climatic conditions in order to prevent microbial activity.

The council however disclosed that it would go ahead with its inquiry on the product, to determine its safety and also clarify aspects of the manufacturer’s statements.

“The Council continues to collaborate with NAFDAC and SON regarding applicable safety standards, but advises that consumption of butter, margarine or spreads generally are not unsafe,” the statement read.