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NASH: Belgium’s illegal food labelling defame palm oil

KUALA LUMPUR: National Association of Smallholders (Nash), which represents thousands of small farmers in Malaysia, has slammed Belgium for its illegal and defamatory “No Palm Oil” labelling on packaged foods and beverages, which is hurting oil palm planters’ livelihoods.

“We strongly reject Belgium’s illegal campaign against palm oil. We urge the Belgian government to issue a directive to stop the usage of this defamatory and illegal ‘No Palm Oil’ labels on their packaged foodstuff and in their stores,” said Nash secretary-general Zulkifli Mohd Nazim.

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders, who was in Malaysia last week, reportedly said the palm oil industry has sustainable practices, with good social conditions for workers, along with hospitals and schools for children in the rural areas.

“Reynders acknowledged the palm oil industry is operating sustainably, yet he remained silent on the illegality of the ‘No Palm Oil’ labels. It is disappointing … he is not walking his talk,” said Zulkifli.

From December 13 onwards, the new European Union (EU) Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC) requires palm oil to be listed as an ingredient.

“We acknowledge this FIC regulation, but we reject the ‘No Palm Oil’ defamatory connotation in front-of-pack labels,” said Zulkifli.

“Given the lack of scientific evidence that palm oil consumption is bad for health, it is wrong for food manufacturers to go on using the ‘No Palm Oil’ labels. The Belgian government is conflating the illegal labels with the FIC regulation,” he said.

These discriminatory labels, which is promoted by chocolate maker Galler and supermarket chain Delhaize, is harming the livelihoods of oil palm farmers across Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa, he said.

Zulkifli noted the validity of the “No Palm Oil” label can be challenged under the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (French Consumer Code Articles L-121-1- to L121-7) because this misleading labelling creates mistrust in the minds of consumers, and therefore, unfair to commercial practice.

“Scientists in France and across the world acknowledge that palm oil is a healthy part of a balanced diet, with its many nutritional attributes. Palm oil is all natural and does not contain any harmful trans fats,” he said.

This is written by Caroline Scott-Thomas on 3 Dec 2014 and can be sourced from http://www.foodnavigator.com

‘No Palm Oil’ food labels in EU could face legal challenge

PARIS, FRANCE: Food manufacturers and palm oil producers could have a legal case against companies labelling products ‘No Palm Oil’, according to Paris-based lawyer Anne Bourdu.

Bourdu, who works with Paris legal firm LEXT was asked to look into the legality of ‘No Palm Oil’ labelling for a meeting organised by Food Facts in June 2014. She replied such labelling could legally be challenged under both French and EU laws.

“My legal opinion is that it interests all producers of palm oil and all manufacturers of products that contain palm oil,” she told FoodNavigator. In particular, she cites EU regulation No 1169/2011, which stated food information shall not be misleading.

“By suggesting that the food possesses special characteristics when, in fact, all similar foods possess such characteristics, in particular by specifically emphasising the presence or absence of certain ingredient and/or nutrients.” With this in mind, Bourdu said, the usage of ‘No Palm Oil’ labelling is “unacceptable from a regulatory point of view.”

“I am personally in favour of giving the most information to the consumer as possible, not only with safety standards but also how products are manufactured. That may also be a political choice for consumers to choose a ‘green’ product,” she said.

She said food companies should instead highlight their use of sustainable palm oil or explain on-pack why they had chosen the specific vegetable oil in their product.

Bourdu insists that labelling something ‘No Palm Oil’ is different from labelling it ‘No Additives’ or ‘No Preservative’.”The difference, to me, is that palm oil is a raw material rather than an additive,” she said.

International law firm Hogan Lovells concurred that palm oil is different from artificial colours or preservatives because it is not an additive.

In reviewing legal remedies in Belgium and France, Hogan Lowells say that companies using ‘No Palm Oil’ labels would need to justify it. “It may be useful to know the identity of the oil in a product,” it said.

“However, in the absence of evidence that a specific oil represents a risk to consumer health, inclusion of ‘No Palm Oil’ front-labelling unfairly singles out palm oil and emphasises the absence of palm oil in the packaged food as telling the consumer more than mere information concerning the type of oil used,” it added.

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