Want to avoid palm oil? Labelling laws won't help you yet

SHOPPERS who want to avoid palm oil when they are at the supermarket are unable to do so due to unclear labelling on Australian shelves, a consumer advocate group says.

Palm oil, which is used in many groceries including muesli bars, chips and shampoo, is allowed to be labelled as vegetable oil in Australia.

Consumer advocate group Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said only 14% of palm oil produced around the world was made sustainably, with the majority resulting in mono-culture plantations and mass deforestation.

He said the "catastrophic environmental damage" of most palm oil produced, meant some consumers would avoid such product if they knew they contained the oil.

"Additionally, it has a saturated fat content of 51%, which fares poorly in comparison to other vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and olive," he said.

"Choice believes that in order for consumers to make an informed decision to avoid palm oil should they wish to, access to accurate labelling is vital.

"For a product with such high levels of saturated fat, we think it is important to clearly and specifically label, rather than leave it up to the consumer to decipher fat levels on the nutritional panel."Choice tips for identifying palm oil:

* Check the nutritional panel for the proportions of saturated to unsaturated fats

* Note high saturated fat content where vegetable oil is listed may mean the product contains palm oil

* Be aware that when buying processed products, it may contain palm oil

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