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Editorial

Will Australian Products Require Palm Oil Labelling?

Palm Oil is ruining critical ecosystems around the world. Now, a campaign in Australia is pushing for mandatory labelling on products that contain it.

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Sumatran-elephant-Conjour-2
Sumatran elephant in the forest - Jason Savage Photography 2018. All Rights Reserved

A national campaign to force companies to label their products as containing Palm Oil is gaining traction in Australia. At the time of writing, nearly 150,000 people have added their name.

The petition, running on Change.org, was started by Sarah Young, who writes the following:

“Around 300 soccer fields per hour of precious rain forest in Malaysia and Indonesia (habitat of the Orangutan) are destroyed each hour for Palm Oil plantations. It is estimated that 25 Orangutans die each day from Palm Oil deforestation.

“The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUNC) has classified the Bornean orangutan as Endangered with approximately 55,000 left with 5,000 killed a year. The Sumatran orangutan is Critically Endangered with approximately 6,300 left and 1,000 being killed a year.

“Each year, Australia imports approximately 130,000 tons of palm oil and it’s found in a huge range of products. These include, (but are not limited to) biscuits, chips, crackers and batters, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and cosmetics.

“If an Australian consumer makes the decision to avoid purchasing products that contain Palm Oil under current legislation, (with Palm Oil not required to be labelled), [it] is an almost impossible task.”

Because of this, on the campaign’s page Ms Young has also highlighted the different ways to spot products containing palm oil without the label.

“Here are some examples of how Palm Oil is currently ‘hidden’ from Australian consumers,” she says: 

Names for Palm Oil


Palm oil kernel 
“Palmitate” or “Palmate” 
Elaeis gunieensis
Hydrated Palm Gylcerides Hexadecanoic
Palmitic Acid

Likely to be Palm Oil
Vegetable oil (if product contains saturated fats, it’s most likely palm oil)
Anything containing “stearate, stearyl” 
Anything containing the words “cetyl, cetearyl” 
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) 
Sodium Laureth Sulphate 
Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate 
(SDS or NaDS) Sodium 
Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate Steareth -2
Steareth -20 Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, 481-483 

Ms Young says that health reasons are just as valid as environmental reasons for the labelling of palm oil in food products.

“We are seeking transparency on our food labels so that we can make informed choices. We request mandatory labelling of Palm Oil on ALL products sold in Australia by January 2020,” she finishes with.

If you’d like to support the campaign, you can do so via this link.

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