The term “canola” refers to specific varieties of the oilseed rape species and the oil and seeds obtained from these plants. Canola oil is produced from the seeds of these varieties, which have been bred to contain less than 2% erucic acid in the oil. Canola oil falls under Standard 2.4.1 – Edible Oils of the Food Standards Code.
Early rapeseed varieties were very high in erucic acid (30–60% of the total fatty acids) and were therefore unsuitable for consumption by humans and animals. Erucic acid has been linked to adverse effects in animals at very high levels. This resulted in the selective breeding of low erucic acid varieties.
The safety of canola oil has been thoroughly examined and confirmed by FSANZ and various other regulatory agencies including the United States Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada. It has been used safely by a large proportion of the population for many years. The amount of erucic acid consumed by Australian and New Zealand consumers is well below levels that may potentially cause harm.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has also stated that canola oil has the potential to help consumers achieve dietary goals because it has the lowest concentration of saturated fatty acids (7% of total fatty acids) of all oils commonly consumed globally.
FSANZ Technical report 21 - Erucic acid in food
United States - canola oil has GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status in the United States; see Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 21, Section 184.1555
Health Canada - information on the approval of canola oil
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publication on canola (pdf 90 kb)