Palm oil labelling

How can we make informed, more sustainable choices if palm oil labelling isn't mandatory?
Learn more

01.Label the truth or palm it off

Palm oil labelling

It’s versatile and cheap, prolongs the shelf life of products, and the crop grows quickly. So it’s no surprise that palm oil is an appealing ingredient to manufacturers of consumer goods, both edible and non-edible. 

Despite these favourable traits, there is a dark side to palm oil. With only 14% of the oil produced globally certified through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, environmental damage caused by deforestation is catastrophic. And it's high in saturated fats to boot.

Palm oil is the most consumed edible oil in the world, accounting for 30% of total production in 2013. According to the World Wildlife Fund, palm oil is present in about half the packaged products on Australian supermarket shelves – including everything from bread and biscuits to chips, chocolate and even personal care products such as shampoo. The Australian Food and Grocery Council estimates an even larger presence – about 80%. 

However, you’d never know this as Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) allows palm oil to be labelled simply as vegetable oil.

Why no label?

In 2008, FSANZ was presented with a proposal to label palm oil by name for health and environmental reasons. However, it rejected the proposal, claiming environmental issues sat beyond its scope of regulation and that consumers concerned about the saturated fat content in palm oil could see this in the nutrition information panel of food labels. A private member’s bill, proposed by SA senator Nick Xenophon in 2010 to provide clear, accurate information about the inclusion of palm oil, was knocked back by the government, which estimated it would cost industry $150m and breach Australia’s World Trade Organization obligations. 

In 2011, following a comprehensive review of food labelling, it was recommended that palm oil be specifically labelled. In response, FSANZ announced that the development of a technical evaluation and advice based on this recommendation would be a priority.



Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments