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The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries Hosts Webinar To Educate EU Consumers On Misleading Palm Free Oil Practices

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Faces & Happenings | 0 comments

The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) recently hosted the “Palm Oil-Free Labels: Misleading the EU consumer” virtual webinar to raise awareness on the common and misleading practice of using “palm oil free” labels in the EU market to the detriment of palm oil’s reputation and included calls for more constructive and informative ways forward. The panellists agreed that boycotting palm oil is not the solution but understanding the full picture and encouraging sustainable palm oil is. 

The Executive Director of CPOPC, Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Yusof Basiron, along with sustainability experts, Ms Imkje Tiesinga, Advisor on food legislation at the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA) and Mr Nico Roozen, Founder and Honorary President of Solidaridad Network, highlighted the need for better rules to be adopted at EU level to avoid further confusion and improve valid consumers’ information.

In his opening remarks, Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Yusof Basiron highlighted that “The ongoing negative sentiments that have been existing for the longest time in the EU markets such as phasing out palm oil in biofuel use via RED II requires a consistent effort to build a common understanding because we are facing a global challenge of growing consumption of vegetable oils amidst supply shortages projected for the future.”

According to Professor Pietro Paganini (Competere.eu), moderator of the event, “Free from labels can be deceiving, as in the case of palm oil. Its absence does not bring any improvement for consumers nor for the environment.”

The panellists Ms Imkje Tiesinga, Advisor on food legislation at the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA) and Mr Nico Roozen, Founder and Honorary President of Solidaridad Network, highlighted the importance of sustainable palm oil for smallholder farmers and the fulfilment of UN Sustainable Development Goals and the severe consequences that a palm oil ban could have on the economies of producing countries.

Ms Imkje Tiesinga made the following call for action: “Let’s replace all efforts on palm free products with jointly communicating the honest story of sustainable palm oil to completely transform the market.”

Mr Roozen highlighted that “The future of palm oil is sustainable palm oil. No boycotts but addressing the critical issues. The suggestion that alternative vegetable oils could replace palm oil is misleading and counterproductive,” showing how replacing palm oil with other vegetable oils could require up to 4,5 times more land, putting more pressure on the environment on a global scale.  

A lively Q&A at the end of the webinar gave the opportunity to panellists and the audience to further discuss and deepen their understanding of the EU approach towards palm oil, highlighting the urgent need for a change in the status quo of the EU labelling rules towards a fairer system for palm oil and EU consumers. A special statement from the audience was delivered by H.E. Mr. Andri Hadi, Ambassador of Indonesia in Brussels, who pointed out the marked reduction of deforestation rates in Indonesia (70% reduction from 2019 to 2020) and the sustainability commitments implemented by Indonesia and Malaysia, explaining that “Environmentally, the palm oil industry is fully aware of the sustainability aspect, hence palm oil should not be synonymous with deforestation anymore. It should be understood in a holistic and non-discriminatory manner”.

In view of the awaited publication of the Commission’s proposal to revise the EU rules on the information provided to consumers, CPOPC looks forward to fostering further debates and understanding around this important topic for producers and consumers alike. Planned for the end of 2022, the revision aims to ensure better labelling information to help consumers make healthier and more sustainable food choices: to this end, CPOPC’s webinar provided inputs and food for thought to ensure that palm oil is given a fairer treatment in the foreseen EU initiative.

With an estimated more than 9,500 products labelled “palm oil free” in various EU countries’ markets, consumers are constantly confronted to a negative perception of palm oil when buying food: this on-pack labelling has become even more visible than other real nutrition or health information, i.e. allergens, sugar content or carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction (CMR) substances such as paraben. 

Source: Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries

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