The Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, represented by nine Australian ministers and New Zealand's new Food Safety Minister, David Bennett, will meet in Adelaide on 28 April to vote on whether or not to introduce this specific labelling.
Health experts' support, including an open letter to ministers comes in addition to more than 170,000 signed letters and petitions from consumers calling on their ministers to support this change.
Further to this, independent polling shows 92% of New Zealanders and 85% of adult Australians want the right to make informed health choices, as well as ethical choices on environmental issues such as deforestation, about the food they buy.
"Compulsory labelling of vegetable oils is a complete no-brainer," says Grant Schofield, Professor of Public Health and director of The Human Potential Centre at AUT Millennium in Auckland.
"People have every right to know what's in their food and where it comes from. In addition to well-known environmental issues around palm oil, there are many good health reasons for labelling all vegetable oils. Some vegetable oils are higher in highly refined and high in omega 6 and trans-fats than animal fats. These are fats many New Zealanders might wish to eat less of for their heart and overall health. Give consumers the tools to identify which oils are in products, so they can choose what's best for their health," says Professor Schofield.
New Zealand and Australia continue to lag behind the US, Canada and the EU, where labelling of vegetable oils is already mandatory, and has been a powerful driver of sustainable practices. Legislative change in the EU in 2014 resulted in a 67% spike in the uptake of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).
Labelling campaigners Unmask Palm Oil, Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo, Wellington Zoo and Orana Wildlife Park says it's time for the ministers to stop delaying and give consumers the information that they so clearly want.
New Zealand Food Safety Minister, David Bennett MP, will be meeting with campaign officials at Auckland Zoo ahead of the 28 April meeting in Adelaide.
"We are encouraged that Mr Bennett has agreed to meet us ahead of the Ministerial Forum and we will be impressing on him the importance of a positive vote" says Unmask Palm Oil director, Ben Dowdle.
Dowdle says as well as giving consumers the fundamental right to make informed health choices about the foods they buy, "a vote for mandatory labelling will be a vote to help wildlife and vital rainforest ecosystems – which ultimately, we are all reliant on for our own health".
Destruction of rainforest habitat to plant oil palm plantations remains the single biggest threat to the survival of south-east Asian rainforest species including orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants.
Consumers can show their support for mandatory labelling of palm oil in food by visiting the Unmask Palm Oil website and asking David Bennett MP to commit to this essential piece of legislation on 28 April.
Palm Oil Fast Facts
Palm oil is now the world's most widely consumed vegetable oil with current global production (62 million metric tonnes) predicted to double by 2020
Labelling was strongly supported by public health groups including the Australian Public Health Association, Nutrition Australia and the Australian Medical Association
92% of New Zealanders and 84% of Australians support mandatory palm oil labelling (UMR Research 2016)
New Zealand's Ministry of Health itself warns that consuming too much palm oil is bad for health: (http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-and-physical-activity/healthy-eating/making-healthier-food-choices)
Around 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. In these 2 countries, deforestation to grow it is decimating vital rainforest ecosystems and driving wildlife species like orangutan, tiger, rhino and elephant towards extinction. This is despite non-forested land being available
Labelling palm oil is already a legal requirement in Europe, the United States and Canada, and is a powerful driver of sustainable practices. Subsequent to mandatory labelling coming into force in Europe in 2014, there was a 67% spike in the uptake of sustainable palm oil.
Palm oil can be grown sustainably on non-forested land, but currently only around 14% of palm oil that is produced is Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) – which certifies palm oil plantations to ensure they are deforestation-free