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Zoos Victoria bans Cadbury chocolate from its shelves over palm oil controversy

Mondelez products to be dumped from Zoos Victoria kiosks Source: The Feed/Patrick Forrest

Zoos Victoria say they will no longer sell Cadbury chocolate or Natural Confectionery Company lollies at their zoos as the manufacturers are refusing to disclose the origins of the palm oil used in their products.

Two popular confectionery brands will be dumped from kiosks at Zoos Victoria after they failed to declare where the palm oil used in their products comes from.

Cadbury chocolate and Natural Confectionery Company products will be banned from sale at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary as they fail to comply with the organisation's wildlife-friendly standards.

Zoos Victoria has long campaigned for the sustainable production of palm oil which is associated with widespread destruction of the habitats of animals like orangutans, tigers, elephants and gibbons.

The organisation gave its product suppliers - including Cadbury's and Natural Confectionery parent company Mondelez - six months to declare the origins of any palm oil used in their product before taking them off the shelves.

A hidden ingredient

Palm oil is used in many packaged products - from ice cream to lipstick - but under current legislation it can be labelled on ingredient lists as 'vegetable oil', making it difficult for consumers to know if it's in the product they are purchasing.

Zoos Victoria CEO Dr Jenny Gray said the organisation is calling for legislation that demands specific labelling of the ingredient.

"Consumer research shows that 95 per cent of Australians want clear mandatory labelling of palm oil, so they can make an informed decision on what they consume," Dr Gray said.

Zoos Victoria believes mandatory labelling of palm oil would put pressure on food companies to start using sustainably-produced palm oil.

"We all just want to know what is in the products we consume and how the use of these ingredients affects the habitat of the precious wildlife we care about," Dr Gray said.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has been rejecting an application for the mandatory labelling of palm oil since 2006 saying that it develops standards on the basis of health reasons not ecological concerns.

In a statement to The Feed, a Mondelez International spokesperson said 100 per cent of the palm oil they use is sustainability produce - with 96 percent of the palm oil was traceable back to the mill.

"We share Zoos Victoria's concerns and we're committed to eradicating deforestation in the palm oil supply."

In November last year, a Greenpeace report found palm oil suppliers to Mondalez had destroyed 70,000 hectares of rainforest, including 25,000 hectares of orangutan habitat in Indonesia in just two years.

Mondalez swiftly announced it had cut ties with 12 suppliers.

What is palm oil?

High in saturated fats and free of trans fats, palm oil is one of the world's most versatile vegetable oils.

It's used in half of packaged supermarket products and since the early 1980s, the total area of land allocated to palm oil production has more than tripled globally - reaching nearly 14 million hectares in 2007.

Its popularity has led to the widespread destructions of ecosystems where palm oil is produced. Indonesia - the world's biggest palm oil supplier - is being deforested faster than any other country in the world.

Not all bad

Zoos Victoria – and other animal advocates – insist that palm oil itself isn't bad, just the way it is unsustainably farmed.

Dr Gray said a ban on palm oil would likely drive a market for other edible oils that require more land to produce, threatening wildlife in other ways.

"That's why all Zoos Victoria suppliers that use palm oil anywhere in their business must, as a minimum, have a commitment to source 100 per cent Segregated Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and be a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil - an independent, global auditor of the chain of palm oil production," she said.

"Sustainable palm oil plantations are harvested without infringing on wildlife habitat. Unsustainable palm oil plantations are responsible for the rapid loss of biodiversity."

Dr Gray says Zoos Victoria's has launched a new campaign called #LabelPalmOilAlready with more information at zoo.org.au/labelpalmoilalready