Australia’s big supermarkets have moved towards sustainable palm oil in the wake of backlash over its use in their home brand hot cross buns last year.
A Coles spokeswoman said the palm oil used in the company’s hot cross buns was certified sustainable, while Woolworths’ website lists certified sustainable palm oil as an ingredient.
Both chains are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which aims for transparent palm oil labelling by 2015, but concerns remain over the labelling of products using the controversial ingredient.
Australia's largest supermarkets faced a backlash last year at Easter over the use of palm oil in some of their home brand products.
Lorinda Jane from Palm Oil Investigations said despite demand for palm oil wiping out habitats for the endangered species in south east Asia, Australia had no legislation for labelling palm oil.
“There are about 200 names for palm oil,” she said.
“There’s no legislation in place that states that it needs to be labelled on products, so it’s a hidden ingredient, and mainly under the name of vegetable oil in food.”
Ms Jane said consumers should avoid buying products with unidentified vegetable oil, or ensure that products contain certified sustainable palm oil.
“But the difficulty at the moment is there’s no way for consumers to tell whether that certified palm oil is in the product or not,” she said.
Palm Oil Investigations and other awareness groups have targeted larger chains in recent years, including Aldi.
The German chain was subject to a recent protest by activists, which pressured to adopt a responsible palm oil policy.
An Aldi spokeswoman said palm oil was used in Bakers Life Hot Cross Buns fruit, fruitless and choc chip variants, but a significant number of products contained oil from sustainable sources.
“We identify and label palm or palm oil, as per the legal requirements of the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand Code, making it easier for customers to make informed purchasing decisions,” she said.
“… We have made a commitment to using certified sustainable palm oil only, in all products by 2015.”