“Palm Oil Free” Labeled Products Will Be Sanctioned

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) Chairman Joko Supriyono has regretted that there are still many products labeled with “palm oil free” (POF) in Indonesia. Not only local products, but also imported products which are sold locally through online trading.

“The palm oil free labels give an impression that the products with the POF label are healthier than others.  Such labeling is misleading and part of the negative campaigns against the palm oil. We see the products with such labels are on sale through online platforms and sent from other countries. There should be a mechanism of supervision and harsh sanctions against such practices,” Joko said during the #INApalmoil Talkshow on “Misleading Palm Oil Labelling Threatens Palm Oil Market”, which was organized online on Wednesday, 16 September 20.

For the first time in 2016, products with “palm oil free” labels were found on the shelves of a supermarket in Jakarta. Since then, other products were also found with the same labels. Such labeling was later followed by home-made products in Indonesia, ignoring the fact that the labeling is misleading and part of the negative campaigns against the Indonesian palm oil.

The food and drug supervisory agency (BPOM) Deputy III Reri Indriani said that legally the “Palm Oil Free” labels are against the article 67 point 1 of BPOM regulation no:31/2008 on processed food labels. The International codex Alimentarius (2017) also stipulates that processed food labels are not allowed to contain wrong or misleading information.

“Our prevailing regulation clearly stipulates that processed foods which naturally contain no certain components are not allowed to claim that the foods contain such components, except  from the beginning they already contained such components but later the components are reduced like what happened to packaged milks, then such case is allowed,” said Reri.

The rapid growth of trading through online platforms has created a challenge of its own as foreign products can now enter Indonesia more freely. “Besides the “palm oil free” label, based on cyber patrol we also found other more serious offenses as they don’t have distribution licenses and subject to multiple legal articles. Regarding fines and other sanctions against sellers and buyers of the POF labeled products, BPOM will conduct further assessment,” said Reri.

Condoning “POF”

Ironically, despite of the international laws applied by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other foreign countries, which ban misleading information on foods, there are now more than 2,000 products with “palm oil free” labels found across the globe. In the European Union (EU), there are three stipulations on the products with misleading information in the food Information regulation 1169/2011.

The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) Deputy Executive Director Dupito Simamora said that despite of prevailing regulation on the misleading information that stipulates clear sanctions, in reality the labeling practice is condoned and no action was taken.

“POF label could be a marketing strategy by creating an impression of being healthier and more environmentally friendly, but actually it is a maneuver to boycott palm oil as it directly influences the consumers,” said Dupito.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian food and beverage producers association (GAPMMI) Secretary General Stefanus Indrayana said that the processed food industries are dependent on the palm oil and derivative products. Around 50 percent of all food products at global market contain palm oil. It is higher than the use of canola oil, sunflower oil, and soybean.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahendra Siregar said that the fact that the world is very dependent on palm oil has increased discrimination against the palm oil as a result of trade war to win bigger market share at the global market of vegetable oils.

“Don’t be complacent with the export-import figures. The increase of palm oil exports to EU is claimed as evidence that there is no discrimination against palm oil by EU. In fact, it is due to the drop of vegetable oils production in EU, which is caused by extreme temperature and COVID-19 pandemic,” Mahendra said. (*)