Companies coy over palm oil use

Stuff.co.nz: NZPA: 21 June 2010

Some New Zealand food companies are being slippery about whether they use palm oil, according to a Green Party survey.

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley wrote to 20 of New Zealand's largest food companies, asking them for a list of products they manufactured that contained palm oil.

Chocolate-maker Cadbury recently tried to introduce palm oil in its local products, but stopped because of criticism about sustainability.

Watties said it did not use palm oil in any products and Delmaines said it used palm oil only in its Kisses product.

Six other companies confirmed using palm oil, but refused to give further information. A further 12 companies did not respond to Ms Kedgley's query and follow up request for information.

Ms Kedgley said the refusal of manufacturers to disclose what food products contained palm oil was extraordinary, since this was one of the reasons Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) had given for refusing to require palm oil to be labelled.

"FSANZ said in its decision not to require palm oil labelling that if consumers wished to avoid the consumption of palm oil they could contact food manufacturers for the information. Well, we have contacted food manufacturers, and nearly all have refused to disclose this information."

New Zealanders had a right to know what was in their food, she said.

"We need to change our labelling laws so that companies are required to disclose whether they use palm oil or not, because companies are not prepared to disclose this information voluntarily."

Conservation advocates say palm oil's production is responsible for intensive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, leading to the slaughter of around 50 endangered orangutans a week and making Indonesia the world's third highest man-made carbon emitter, according to Greenpeace.