2013 saw Unmask Palm Oil fight for labelling in New Zealand: a petition of 7500 people was presented to parliament, three political parties joined our cause, 4000 people saw a campaign presentation and we ran five volunteer workshops across the country. This year in 2014 Unmask Palm Oil expands into Australia ahead of the all important ministerial meeting that will decide Australian and New Zealand policy on palm oil labelling.

The decision to expand our campaign into Australia was made on the basis that New Zealand and Australia share food labelling laws. Food regulation in Australia and New Zealand is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and governed by the ‘Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation.’ Put more simply the Legislative and Governance Forum is the ‘boss’ and FSANZ is the ‘employee.’

The Legislative and Governance Forum is made up of a Government Minister, usually from the health portfolio, from every State and Territory in Australia as well as the federal Governments of Australia and New Zealand. You can begin to understand our decision to campaign in Australia when in total this gives Australia nine votes and New Zealand just one.

In either late 2014 or mid 2015 the Legislative and Governance Forum will meet and decide on Recommendation 12 of the FSANZ ‘Labelling Logic’ report:

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 (e.g., added sugars (fructose, glucose syrup, honey), added fats (palm oil, milk fat) or added vegetable oils (sunflower oil, palm oil)

If this recommendation is passed then any food product using palm oil will be labelled as such. In order to be successful six of the ten Ministers will need to vote for this recommendation.

However, despite transparent labelling seeming to be a no brainer it will be no easy task, FSANZ (the ‘employee’ one) who provide technical advice to the Legislative and Governance Forum have a historic dislike of palm oil labelling laws.

They have denied two previous applications for labelling of palm oil, they consider labelling to be only for health resons despite introducing other labelling laws on purely ethical grounds and they also claim to have the goal of responding to consumer demand for information yet ignore the 170,000 petition signatures for labelling palm oil across Australia and New Zealand.

In light of this it is likely that FSANZ will present a rather biased report to the Legislative and Governance Forum so it is imperative that Government Ministers on the forum have all the facts in front of them. We need all ten Ministers to know that the public of Australia and New Zealand want to know what is in the products they buy.

To ensure Ministers hear the message we will be building partnerships with companies, environmental organisations and social NGO’s, we will be running workshops, speaking to as many people as we can, engaging with the public on social media, leading letter writing campaigns and lobbying political parties to adopt the policy.

2014 is going to be an exciting time for Unmask Palm Oil. Join us in the fight for transparency.