A lack of evidence concerning the safety of eating increased amounts of plant sterols (phytosterol esters) has prompted the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) to ban the sale of all yoghurt, milk, cereal bars and mayonnaise products containing the ingredient from 16 June.

Nevertheless, Ian Lindenmayer, managing director of ANZFA, stressed that “the decision to approve the addition of this ingredient to margarines was because there was adequate scientific data to show that it was safe for humans to consume the amounts of phytosterol ester that would normally be consumed through eating margarines.”

In an open letter published this week, Lindenmayer commented: “I am concerned that some of the media reporting of the decisions about phytosterol esters in foods may lead to unwarranted fears among consumers.”

Once the affected products have been withdrawn, only Unilever’s Pro-activ and Goodman Fielder’s Logicol margarine products will still be available to consumers.