“The Unmask Palm Oil campaign is writing this letter to all Members of Parliament to register our disappointment at the Governments inaction regarding the issue of mandatory palm oil labelling. We request a response regarding your stance on this issue.
As you may be aware, palm oil is a product that is primarily used in, but not limited to processed foods, cosmetics, and soaps. Rapid increase in demand for the oil has led to large scale deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia causing devastating loss of wildlife, two billion tonnes of carbon emissions per year and indigenous human rights abuses. As I am sure you can understand this means there are a lot of consumers in New Zealand who wish to stop consuming palm oil. This was made explicitly clear by the public outcry when Cadbury included palm oil in its dairy milk chocolate.
The problem arises when consumers try to avoid buying palm oil. Currently palm oil does not have to be explicitly labelled on products that contain it, meaning companies hide behind the generic term ‘vegetable oil’ or over 170 different chemical names such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. In an audit conducted by Pakuranga College students, it took 12 volunteer hours of calling companies to try find out what products contained palm oil, the audit was inconclusive as companies would not readily divulge the information.
Simon Bridges, the Minister for Consumer Affairs who is responsible for the introduction of palm oil labelling, has offered no real reason as to why New Zealand consumers should not enjoy the freedom of choice to not buy palm oil. We have been in regular correspondence with Simon Bridges but he has so far declined over 6 requests to meet with him and has only offered 1 standardised and out of date statement with no genuine response to our concerns.
Labelling is a politically safe policy that has huge returns as proven by Norway’s use of a similar policy to slash consumption of palm oil by 64 percent. ‘Home Brand’ is proving that the disruption to business as a result of labelling is minimal as they are currently voluntarily labelling palm oil on all their products.
The public’s desire for mandatory labelling is also strong. Auckland Zoo collected 10,000 signatures for palm oil labelling as part of the ‘Don’t palm us off’ campaign and to date the Unmask Palm Oil campaign has collected 2000 signatures.
We are looking for political leadership to make the minor change to give us the two words in the ingredients list that we need to get on with the real issue which is palm oil, not labelling.
We would like to know if you do or do not support the mandatory labelling of palm oil. We would also welcome any questions that you may have as a result of this letter.”