New EU labeling rules for Palm Oil

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An extract from the Guardian Friday 12 December 2014 12.30 GMT

EU labelling changes force industry action on palm oil

From Saturday, 500 million consumers in Europe will become aware that palm oil is in their food. The EU law on food information to consumers (otherwise known as FIC) means that food stuffs can no longer get away with hiding ingredients under generic titles. Now ingredients will have to be exactly what it says on the tin, and sustainable palm oil could be a major beneficiary.

Until now, palm oil has often been hidden as generic vegetable oil, as well as hundreds of other misleading synonyms. In practice, given that the law was agreed in 2001, most major brands, manufacturers and retailers have already stopped this practice in advance of the legislation coming into force. Go down to your local supermarket and own-brand foods have long included palm oil (where it ends up in products as diverse as breakfast cereals to pizza bases).

Transparent labelling is already having a positive impact on the uptake of sustainable palm oil, certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). “In the first two-quarters of this year compared with last year we’ve seen a 65% increase in sales of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO),” says Danielle Morley, RSPO’s European director of outreach and engagement. “We think that’s in anticipation of preparing for the FIC regulations.”

However, whether FIC will boost the long-term uptake of CSPO is uncertain. The regulation only requires that palm oil is stated where used, not whether it is sustainable or not.

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EU adopts law mandating palm oil labeling on food products
December 12, 2014

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 was passed in 2011 after intense activism, including the "Clear Labels, Not Forests" campaign led by animal welfare and wildlife conservation groups. The legislation, which aims to combat generic labeling of "vegetable oil" on food products, gave companies three years to come into compliance. That three year window ends tomorrow.

Many environmentalists supported the initiative as a way to pressure produrers of palm oil — the most widely used source of edible oil — to clean up their supply chains. Palm oil production has been one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia over the past twenty years, emerging as one of the most significant threats to orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos in the region.

The legislation was vehemently opposed by the palm oil industry, which feared it could lend ammunition to boycotts of products that contain palm oil.

However since the measure was approved, most of the largest palm oil companies have adopted zero deforestation policies, which, going forward, prohibit conversion of forests and peatlands for oil palm plantations.

Nonetheless the legislation is being welcomed by conservation groups now that it is officially going into effect.

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