Mojo Mathers

Palm oil on the label

by Mojo Mathers

The number of words that you will find on products at the supermarket instead of ‘palm oil’ is astounding.

  • Anything containing the words “Palmitate” or “Palmate”
  • Elaeis guineensis
  • Hydrated Palm Glycerides
  • Hexadecanoic or Palmitic Acid
  • Vegetable oil
  • “stearate, stearyl”
  • Anything containing the words “cetyl, cetearyl”
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  • Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
  • Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate
  • Steareth -2 and Steareth -20
  • Emulsifier 422, 430-436, 465-467, 470-478, 481-483, 493-495, 570

If you don’t think you’re quite up to committing all of those to memory you’re a bit stuck at the moment because this Government is not going to consider mandatory labelling of palm oil.

The tearing up of rainforests that comes hand in hand with palm oil is just devastating. Rainforests’ importance to the world can’t be overstated and yet we are seeing palm oil being used in everything from biscuits to soap.

I asked the Minister about his views on mandatory palm oil labelling. He said:

“I have considered this issue but do not consider mandatory palm oil labelling is the best approach to concerns about palm oil. Labelling would not state how palm oil is produced and therefore would not provide sufficient information to allow consumers to choose between sustainably and non-sustainably produced palm oil. In addition, the intent of information on consumer food labels is to inform people of safety information and the nutritional content of food. Finally, I believe consumer pressure is often the most effective way of persuading businesses to behave in an appropriate manner.”

The Minister’s point about consumers needing more information to choose between unsustainable and sustainable sources is a complete red herring as there is nothing to stop responsible businesses who use sustainably-produced palm oil from declaring that information on their labels, provided they have independent certification to that effect.

Quite how the Minister thinks that consumers will be able to put pressure on businesses when there is no requirement for upfront labelling I don’t know, unless he expects us all to become full time detectives for every item on our supermarket shelves.

That’s why we are supporting the Unmask Palm Oil campaign to put in place mandatory labelling of this ingredient. You can sign the petition on their website and I am looking forward to this petition arriving at Parliament later this year.

In the meantime, to avoid destructive palm oil in the products you buy look for the ones on the Auckland Zoo’s palm oil free shopping guide.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Mojo Mathers on Wed, March 27th, 2013   

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