Posted by Rita Mu
A new bill that will require palm oil to be labelled in all Australian foods is one step closer to becoming law after it passed the Senate yesterday.
The bill, introduced by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens party, secured the support of the Australian Opposition party this week.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has criticised the bill, saying it would have significant impacts on Australia’s food manufacturers as well as compromise the country’s food labelling system.
AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell called the palm oil bill a “deal” between the Opposition and Senator Xenophon.
“Without any consultation with industry or consumers, the Opposition did a political ‘trade-off’ on this legislation, which will be a significant cost for an industry already under pressure,” Carnell said.
According to the AFGC, the cost of changing a single label will be between $10,000 to $19,000 per product*
“This is at odds with the Opposition’s aggressive stance on a carbon tax, saying that any new cost on Australian manufacturing at this time would cost jobs and send companies offshore,” Carnell said.
“Food and grocery manufacturers – employing 288,000 Australians including half in rural and regional areas – are already under intense pressure from a ‘perfect storm’ of rising input costs across the supply chain, such as energy, wages and water, higher transport costs, record high global commodity prices and supermarkets forcing down retail prices which is seriously impacting margins.
“It now seems that when it suits them, the Opposition is happy is to do backroom political deals that will have a similar effect on industry as a carbon tax – increase costs and put more pressure on jobs.”
According to conservation groups, the labelling of palm oil in foods is critical because the ingredient is high in fat and its plantations destroy native forests in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The AFGC is pushing Federal MPs to carry out further consultation with the food industry on the proposed palm oil labelling legislation.
*Cost Schedule for Food Labelling Changes Final Report (version 2), PWC 7 March 2008.