What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm. It is one of the world’s leading agricultural commodities and is widely used as an ingredient in food products, cosmetics and other household items. Palm oil is found in approximately 40% of the products you buy in the supermarket.
In South East Asia alone, the equivalent of 300 soccer fields are deforested every hour for palm oil plantations. It is estimated that close to 50 orang-utans die each week due to palm oil. At this rate, orang-utans could be extinct in the wild in less than 10 years.
Palm oil is able to pass as a secret ingredient within
Australia, often labelled as 'vegetable oil' because current legislation does not mandate the labelling of this product. Australians unknowingly consume an average of 10kg of palm oil per person each year.
Palm oil is used in heaps of popular foods from peanut butter to chips and chocolate. It's not often clearly labeled as such, so you might not even know if you're eating it. Food manufacturers can find other ways of making these products however we can't find other ways of making orang-utans.
And, don't forget about cosmetics and toiletries: if palm oil is used in these products it must be labelled. No exceptions. However it is usually not labelled as palm oil, it is labelled as Elaeis guineensis. This is the name given to palm oil by the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients. (INCI). Misleading labels on cosmetics can lead to action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Association.
Once palm oil is labelled on all food products, consumers can then exert pressure for a sustainable palm oil industry. Without labelling, consumer influence is difficult and our right to make informed decisions is taken from us.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has the power to change food labelling legislation. However in order to justify this change the community needs to ensure that FSANZ know that you want the choice.
You have the right to choose food products that don't destroy Orang-utan habitat, yet you currently do not have the choice. Tell Food Standards Australians New Zealand that you want palm oil labelled on all food products. Tell them don’t palm us off.
What you can do!
- Visit the palm oil section of the Melbourne Zoo website to sign a postcard online.
- Sign a postcard at Melbourne Zoo and post it free of charge at the postage box inside the zoo.