Govt proposes ban on anti-palm oil labels

Checks on 2,609 premises saw 12 products with labels such as ‘palm oil free’ or ‘does not contain palm oil’

pic by BLOOMBERG

THE government may stop the sales of products with negative labels against palm oil such as “no palm oil” from the market.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the government is looking into banning the products with such labels after discussions and obtaining the Cabinet’s approval on Oct 18. Saifuddin said the ministry is now engaging stakeholders on the contents of the regulations.

“It is a rule, it can either maintain that way or can be enacted into a law.

“I will be discussing further with my legal advisory team to see if it is sufficient just as a rule or should it be a law by itself,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Saifuddin Nasution said the action is in line with the government’s support for the palm oil industry.

He also highlighted that the ministry had conducted checks on 2,609 premises nationwide and found 12 products with labels such as “palm oil free” or “does not contain palm oil”.

“The enforcement officers had advised that the products be taken off the shelf, which the vendors complied with after a follow-up check,” he added.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said most of the labels were used as a marketing gimmick by European manufacturers to paint a negative picture about palm oil.

“My ministry fully supports and is committed to working together to realise the proposal of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to establish a ruling that addresses the use of any negative expressions or indications regarding palm oil.

“The legislation is expected to curb actions that undermine the reputation of Malaysian palm oil in particular and Malaysia’s image internationally,” she added.

The palm oil industry is one of the major contributors to the nation’s socio-economic development and has been developed in a sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, the industry has often been linked to biodiversity degradation and loss.

“These negative assumptions are false and provide a negative picture of oil-based products that are not supported by accurate scientific facts.

“This has led to a number of products imported from abroad that are still available in the local market, showing negative expressions or indications that have aggravated the country’s major commodities,” Kok said.

She gave an example of a peanut butter brand that carried the label “palm oil free”, although palm oil is not a necessary ingredient in peanut butter.

She emphasised that the government is committed in sustainability through the mandatory implementation of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification across the entire palm oil production chain beginning next year.

Indonesia, the largest palm oil manufacturer in the world, has a similar law in place to protect its palm oil industry, which sees food labelled as “palm oil-free” being banned.