Unmask Palm Oil is the Australasian campaign for mandatory labelling of palm oil. Unmask Palm Oil works to ensure that vegetable oils like palm oil are specifically labelled on the ingredients list of food products.

Palm Oil is the ingredient in our processed food, soap, shampoo and cosmetics that when produced unsustainably causes environmental and social damage in Indonesia and Malaysia. The uncontrolled expansion of the conventional palm oil industry means virgin rainforest is being cleared to make more room for plantations.

This deforestation means species like the orangutan, tigers and elephants are being pushed to the edge of extinction, indigenous communities living in the rainforest are forced off their land and billions of tonnes of carbon emissions are produced every year.

Palm oil can be produced without deforestation. Unmask Palm Oil supports the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) which certifies palm oil plantations to ensure they are deforestation free. While boycotting may seem like the obvious solution we believe this would shift the problem to other parts of the world and onto oils which are less productive than palm oil therefore requiring more land.

A consumer wanting to make the switch from conventional palm oil in order to demand Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) will soon discover that Australasian labelling laws make it nearly impossible to make this simple ethical choice. Palm oil can be labelled on an ingredients list as any one of 200 different scientific names or as the generic term vegetable oil. Unmask Palm Oil campaigns to have the specific vegetable oil labelled on the product.

Labelling

In 2009, the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation, made up of Ministers from across Australia and New Zealand and responsible for setting Australasian food labelling policy commissioned an independent labelling review. The review was chaired by former Australian Health Minister, Dr. Neal Blewett and involved extensive public consultation with the panel receiving over 6,000 submissions.

Their final report, published in 2011 and titled ‘Labelling Logic’ had 61 recommendations with one of them being the clearer labelling of vegetable oils:

Recommendation 12 – Where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a food, the terms ‘added sugars’ and ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ be used in the ingredient list as the generic term, followed by a bracketed list … added fats (palm oil, milk fat) or added vegetable oils (sunflower oil, palm oil);

Unmask Palm Oil has the sole goal of seeing Recommendation 12 become policy in New Zealand and Australia.

The recommendations of the report will be decided upon by Ministers of the Legislative and Governance Forum at a meeting in mid 2015. The forums membership is made up of Health and/or food safety ministers from all states and territories across Australasia, ten in total.

This policy already exists in the United States and will be in place in Europe from December 2014. Labelling will hold companies to account over the ethics of their ingredients. It is a consumer right to know what companies are putting in their products, good markets need good information to operate effectively.