Thank you to everyone who took part in our campaign to 'Ask for Choice' to demand clear labeling on products containing palm oil. On Friday 25 November, we learned the outcome of the vote - which while it wasn't the yes we were looking for, it wasn't a no either. Read on for the full statement from Unmask Palm Oil, Wellington Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo and Orana Wildlife Park.

Palm oil labeling campaigners urge New Zealanders to continue to ask for choice

Unmask Palm Oil and New Zealand’s four major zoos say that although Friday’s decision by the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to delay voting on palm oil labeling is frustrating, they are encouraged that the Forum will still progress labeling.

“We welcome the support of the New Zealand Minister of Food Safety, Jo Goodhew, in pushing for progress on this issue. New Zealanders and Australians were clear in their support for labeling and the Minister listened. We urge the Minister to continue supporting this policy all the way through to the final vote,” says Unmask Palm Oil director, Ben Dowdle.

“However, this delay does highlight the flaws of the Ministerial Forum process on this issue, which began back in 2009 and to date has been unnecessarily slow, secretive and undemocratic.

It’s a simple issue. Over 90% of New Zealanders want to know if they are buying palm oil or not. Mandatory labeling will give them this. We should all be concerned that we don’t have a process which is able to respond to public demands quickly and transparently.”

New Zealand officials will now take the lead to further research and develop mandatory labeling of vegetable oils before presenting it to Ministers for their consideration again in April 2017.

“We’ll be following this closely, and hope that the next stages of this policy will be a much more open and consultative process,” says Dowdle.

Unmask Palm Oil, Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo, Wellington Zoo and Orana Wildlife Park are enormously grateful and thankful to New Zealand consumers for their overwhelming support for mandatory labeling of palm oil.

“Kiwis really got behind our ‘Ask for choice’ campaign, and a parallel Australian zoos’ campaign collectively resulted in over 100,000 people signing online letters or printed postcards calling on their ministers to support mandatory labeling of palm oil,” adds Dowdle.

“We want to assure New Zealanders we’ll continue to fight for palm oil labeling on food products so that they can be empowered to make informed decisions for their health and demand deforestation-free Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).”

Unmask Palm Oil and the four zoos will continue to develop tools to help consumers make informed choices, and will be providing policy updates as they come to hand.

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
  • Labeling 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 labeling (UMR Research 2016)
  • New Zealand’s Ministry of Health itself warns that consuming too much palm oil is bad for health
  • 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
  • Labeling 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 labeling 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.