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Help crack the Easter egg palm oil puzzle

CHOICE says consumers face a jungle when it comes to Easter chocolate labels as survey finds 70% of Australians want clearer palm oil labelling

1 April 2015

CHOICE has found consumers are in a palm oil labelling wilderness when it comes to Easter chocolate with phrases such as “vegetable fat” masking this unhealthy and often unsustainable product.  

“When we looked at similar 125 grams packs of Easter eggs from Cadburys and Mars, we found ourselves in the dark when it came to determining the presence of palm oil,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“We believe that consumers have a right to know what they’re buying this Easter. In order to make informed decisions, we would like to see palm oil labelling mandatory on food products.”

The news comes as CHOICE releases its latest food labelling research which found 70% of Australians think it’s important that palm oil is labelled separately on the ingredients list.[1]

“The current labelling system allows palm oil to be hidden behind a generic ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’ label. It’s not surprising that only 15% of Australians mentioned palm oil when asked which oils are included in those terms,”[2] says Mr Godfrey.

“Many Australians are not aware that palm oil is a common ingredient in products ranging from margarines, biscuits, breads and breakfast cereals to chocolates, instant noodles and personal care products.”

“It is estimated that about half of all packaged items in supermarkets contain this type of oil.”[3]

“Palm oil production has been associated with significant environmental impacts, while the product also contains more than 50% saturated fat and can raise ’bad’ cholesterol levels. It is one of the two tropical oils the Heart Foundation recommends consumers avoid, along with coconut oil.”

Of the survey respondents who said accurate palm oil labelling is important to them, environmental impact was the top concern, followed closely by health reasons[4].

“Even though a growing number of companies now use certified sustainable palm oil, it makes up just 18% of the global palm oil supply[5], and the type of certification is not always declared on pack,” says Mr Godfrey.

“Whether it's for health reasons, environmental concerns, or to make food purchasing decisions that align with personal values and beliefs, consumers should be able to identify palm oil in their chocolate treats next Easter.”

The Forum of Food Regulation Ministers will be looking at a recommendation this year that would see palm oil be identified on food products. 

Background

One of the recommendations from the 2011 Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy, led by Dr Neal Blewett, was that the type of oil should be clearly identified in brackets after the generic term 'vegetable oil'. Food Standards Australia New



[1] CHOICE 2015 palm oil survey

[2] Ibid.

[3] World Wildlife Fund

[4] CHOICE 2015 palm oil survey

[5] Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil

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