The Australian Senate has passed an amendment to the Food Act requiring that products containing palm oil be explicitly labelled, rather than described as 'vegetable oil'. Palm oil, say experts, is as unhealthy for the environment as it is for our bodies. The proposed legislation would help inform Australian consumers and urge palm oil producers toward greater environmental sustainability.
Palm oil is a hidden ingredient found in up to half of packaged food products across Europe, including chocolate, biscuits, cereals, margarine, soup, crisps, ice cream, cosmetics and soaps, usually listed simply as vegetable oil .
Its production is often at the expense of tropical forests and carbon-rich peat lands, hindering the global effort to reduce carbon emissions to prevent dangerous climate change. This has had disastrous consequences for a multitude of critically endangered species, including the orangutan, elephant, rhino and tiger.
Radio Australia reports that the Heart Foundation of Australia has found palm oil to contain 50% saturated fat, despite being currently categorized as a vegetable oil. "Australians consume 10 kilograms of palm oil every year and don t know it," said Senator Nick Xenophon, quoted in Stock & Land. Xenophon is one of the bill's major sponsors.
"[Mandatory labeling] is deemed as a trade barrier - told Gunawan, of WWF, to Radio Australia - But from the perspective of the conservation organizations, it is the time to start encouraging and trying to do better practices on the ground. So this kind of reaction would come from the business community."
"This initiative - Gunawan added, - would transform the behavior of the palm oil producers towards better and sustainable practices, on the ground and along the supply chain."
Also the European Parliament is reviewing a new directive on the "provision of food information to consumers" we want to make sure that it is made compulsory for companies to label palm oil clearly on food packaging.
Clear labeling will allow EU citizens to make choices about the products they buy on health and ethical grounds