OILS AIN'T OILS

22 June 2017

Product labelling legislation introduced to give consumers the right to know

Legislation introduced into the Senate this week will force palm oil to be specifically listed as an ingredient on all products that contain palm oil. 

Under current labelling laws, manufacturers are able to label palm oil as 'vegetable oil'. However, the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Truth in Labelling - Palm Oil) Bill 2017 introduced into the Senate by Senator Nick Xenophon this week, will prevent this in future and force manufacturers to use the term 'palm oil' instead. 

Palm oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat, and, according to the Heart Foundation, biomedical research indicates that the consumption of palm oil increases the risk of heart disease.

Palm oil is also used in non-food products, including cosmetics, soap, washing powders and other cleansing products. In South East Asia alone, the equivalent of 300 soccer fields are deforested every hour for palm oil plantations, and each year more than 1000 orang-utans die as a result of land clearing in this region.

"There is no question that the current labelling laws are woefully inadequate and are misleading consumers," said Nick.

"Being allowed to disguise palm oil as vegetable oil means that Australians aren’t able to make an informed choice for themselves and for their family about what they buy at the supermarket - both from a health and an environment perspective."

In 2011, when Senator Xenophon introduced a similar Bill to the Senate, he did so with the support of Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo and
Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, who launched the 'Don’t Palm Us Off' campaign. It passed the Senate with the support of the then Opposition. 

"Even with the support from the industry, nothing has been done to ensure consumers can easily determine if products they are purchasing contain palm oil. Not telling Australians that palm oil is one of the ingredients in or used to make a product is unfair," said Nick.

On a broader scale, the environmental impact of deforestation is significant. Palm oil can be produced sustainably and manufacturers who use certified sustainable palm oil will be able to list the use of the ingredient as “CS Palm Oil”. "How can we be serious about looking after the environment, when we’re not encouraging businesses to farm sustainably?" said Nick.

"This Bill will encourage food manufacturers to purchase from sustainable palm oil producers and will provide consumers with all the information they need to make their own choice. 

"There have been some significant changes to food labelling laws made in this Parliament and I welcome those changes. However, more can be done and the discontent felt by the community at the lack of action taken on this issue is growing. 

"Consumers have a right to know and this Bill gives them that right." 

You can find more information on the Bill here.

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