Australia’s big supermarket chains are facing a backlash this Easter over the use of palm oil in their home brand hot cross buns.
Australia's big supermarket chains are facing a backlash this Easter over the use of palm oil in their home brand hot cross buns.
Palm oil is listed amongst the various other ingredients, on the labels of both Coles and Woolworths brands of hot cross buns.
The controversial plantation-grown vegetable oil has been linked to the destruction of rainforests, the habitat of South East Asia's Orangutans.
The labelling of palm oil as an ingredient is not currently mandatory in Australia.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon's truth in labelling bill, launched in 2009, is currently stalled in the Lower House after passing the Senate.
Woolworths spokesman Benedict Brook said that the labelling of palm oil was a voluntary measure to help consumers make an informed choice.
"In the past, people who may have had opinions about palm oil have unwittingly purchased those products because it has been labelled under other name like vegetable oil. We are giving people that choice while we move towards sustainable palm oil," he said.
Charlotte Richardson, spokesperson for Palm Oil Action, said that even this measure may not be enough.
“Orangutans die every day and they just stuff around,” she said.
“They should put pressure on suppliers to source sustainable palm oil because that's what consumers what.”
She said the consumer reaction was critical effecting change.
“People are becoming more aware of the issues and the more people that stand up against the companies using palm oil, the more demand that will create for them to change."
Twitpic via @LisaNEdwards
Leif Cocks, president and founder of The Orangutan Project says that in fact it's RSPO certified producers that are the “biggest killers of Orangutans” and that 2015 will be too late.
“Being a member and abiding by the guidelines are very separate things and at this rate there will not be any untouched habitat left by then,” he said.
But he agreed that consumer pressure is the first necessary step to better production certification.
“Palm oil is used by manufacturing because it provides the cheapest solution, hopefully if people will vote with their feet and choose a hot cross bun without palm oil”
“Labelling is the first step, certification and manufacturing guidelines are the next.”
SBS has contacted Coles for comment.
Recently, a survey of more than 70 brands by Ethical Consumer magazine and charity Rainforest Foundation UK ranked the most and least green easter chocolates, based on their use of palm oil.