Currently, there are no regulations in Australia to label palm oil – an ingredient that causes mass environmental and social destruction of forests, wildlife and communities, particularly in the Southeast Asia region. Shockingly, palm oil is a hidden ingredient in over 50% of products on Australian supermarket shelves.
Under evasive food labelling laws, it is not mandatory for companies to specifically label palm oil. Instead it can be hidden behind vague ingredients such as ‘vegetable oil’, ‘vegetable fat’ or over 200 alternate names (you can read a list of alternate names here). If you want to be able to decipher palm oil, you will need to commit to the difficult task of memorising alternate terms or thoroughly searching brands policy on palm oil. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for both conscious consumers and ethical companies for there to be a better labelling system to recognise certified sustainable palm oil? Fair Trade made it work for coffee, so why not palm oil?
Initiatives such as the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are thrown around a lot. An initiative companies can link themselves to in order to legitimise that they have made “a commitment to” sourcing sustainable palm oil. However it’s just isn’t enough to make the urgent changes we need in the industry now.
Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for South Australia, has been campaigning on this issue since 2008. Bills have been put forward and pushed back by all too powerful industry lobbyist influence. The governing labelling body in Australia, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) stated that the application was knocked back, quote “because the application was about environmental concerns.” That’s not a joke – you can read their response to the issue as well as the rejection letter here. Apparently the sustainability of the Earth, and all that life depends, is just not a good enough case.
This year is looking to be a monumental year for environmental discussion, with the UN Paris climate conference taking place in December and the environmental disaster taking place in Indonesia right now as man-made fires rage through important forest land, awakening more and more people to the realisation of the detriment that unsustainable palm oil production inflicts.
Now is the time for the Australian Government to turn over a new leaf and introduce the mandatory ingredient labelling of palm oil so that we as consumers can make informed choices in our everyday purchase decisions. This would give companies incentive to source sustainable palm oil and encourage companies who already source sustainable palm oil to promote it.
Join the movement by supporting campaigns that target unsustainable palm oil, share the discussion and amplify the cause by telling your state minister that you support the mandatory labelling of palm oil. Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group Choice have an efficient form to notify your state minister via email – check it out HERE. It will only take a minute to voice your concern, and every voice counts.
It’s time to #Facepalmoil
A New Leaf Project is optimistic that making simple changes in our everyday can go a long way to helping put a stop to the dependency on unsustainable palm oil. Follow A New Leaf Project for inspiration on how you can make conscious consuming and sustainable living a project in your life.
By Chelsea W | A New Leaf Project