The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is aware that a short demonstration video showing how Blue Band “Spread for Bread” (a product of Unilever Nigeria PLC) reacts under certain heat conditions has been circulating, particularly on social media. The video, or impression it conveys, has become the subject of anxiety and intense controversy. It suggests that the product, which the narrator considers a functional equivalent of “Blue Band Original”, is unsafe because, when subjected to high temperature in boiling water, it did not melt or dissolve.
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.
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 manufacturer of this product has made a statement seeking to address public concern by differentiating its products and explaining the purposes of the two different products.
Regardless, the Council has opened an inquiry to determine product safety, and clarify some aspects of the manufacturer’s statements. The purpose of the inquiry is to ensure their 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 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.