Palm oil labels won’t save wildlife – AFGC

Posted by Josette Dunn on 28th April 2010

Mandatory labelling of food products in Australia that contain palm oil would open the “floodgates” of requests from activist groups on a wide range of issues not related to the contents or safety of a product, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said today.

AFGC highlighted that activist groups are now using food labels as a battleground for issues as diverse as deforestation, animal welfare and human rights.

Food labels should only be used to highlight important product information relating to health, nutrition and safety, according to AFGC’s submission to a Senate inquiry into the Private Members’ Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil Bill 2009.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said from a health perspective, it’s more important for consumers to know how much saturated fat is contained in a product rather than where the saturated fat is sourced.

“There is also no proof or evidence to suggest that labelling palm oil in Australia would change the level or extent of deforestation in Indonesia or Malaysia – or that labelling would save one orangutan or tiger,” Ms Carnell said.

“Australia only uses a relatively small amount of the palm oil produced in Indonesia with the vast majority going to China.”

In its Senate submission, AFGC said mandatory labelling for palm oil was an arbitrary response to the much larger issue of deforestation in South East Asia. A more proactive approach would be continuing to work with local communities, governments and business to improve the situation.

“It’s important to remember that deforestation occurred at unacceptable levels long before palm oil was used as major ingredient in food and grocery products and as a biofuel,” Ms Carnell said.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by WWF, industry stakeholders and NGOs in 2004. The industry-led, not-for-profit association has established a rigorous set of requirements for palm oil producers to produce sustainable palm oil and be able to display the RSPO logo.

“AFGC encourages Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers to move towards using RSPO palm oil as it becomes more widely available,” Ms Carnell said.