Indonesia is the world’s top palm oil producer and this product is their biggest export. The Indonesian government has just placed a ban on any food (or product) labeled “palm-oil free” from all supermarkets in an attempt to protect their main commodity.
According to Mongabay, this move could backfire as “other countries could deem it a non-tariff measure, a technical barrier to trade, and file a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO).”
The Indonesian food regulatory agency claims that the “palm-oil free” label implies a product is a healthier option which they believe to be false advertising.
“These products are sold at higher-end retailers so maybe there’s [the implication that it’s] healthy food. So we need to fight that and educate the public that just because [a product contains] palm oil, it doesn’t mean it’s an unhealthy food. That product might contain trans fats from other vegetable oils. So we have to tell the public not to link palm oil with [adverse] health aspect. So every product that you find in the market, whether food products or cosmetics, if they have ‘palm oil-free’ labels, then they’re illegal products,” says the Drug and Food Control Agency (BPOM) head Penny K. Lukito.
Palm oil has been under scrutiny lately, after environmental concerns and animal rights concerns have surfaced throughout the world. According to Reuters, the European Commission had recommended E.U. countries phase out palm oil from transport fuel after learning it causes deforestation.