MPOC Correct MEP’s Errors on Palm Oil Labels
Dear M. Tarabella,
I am writing to you regarding an important misunderstanding contained in your press statement of December 2014, concerning the EU’s new Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation, and subsequent statements from your Twitter account – relating to palm oil. I feel that it is important for me to clarify some of the content contained in your statements – in particular with regard to your role as Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s ASEAN Delegation.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), of which I am Chief Executive Officer, is extremely concerned at current illegal labelling of some food products in Belgium: this consists of products carrying a new, additional label stating “Without Palm Oil” or “No Palm Oil”.
I would like to clarify that this ‘No Palm Oil’ labelling is not related to the EU’s new FIC Regulation. MPOC is supportive of transparency in labelling, and has openly supported the provisions of the FIC Regulation. The FIC provisions relate to palm oil – and all other vegetable oils – being specifically identified on the ingredients list of a product label (instead of, as previously, the generic term “vegetable oil”). MPOC is supportive of this change.
However, the additional “No Palm Oil” labels are different, and are a major concern for Malaysia. These labels are not provided for under FIC. They are additional, unnecessary and unwarranted labels. The labels are an attempt to deliberately denigrate palm oil, and harm the many hundreds of thousands of small farmers, and others in Malaysia, who produce palm oil. There can be no ‘consumer transparency’ argument: as you are aware, the new FIC rules now require transparency in all products on the presence (or absence) of palm oil. No additional labelling is therefore required, or desired.
This labelling – which is undertaken primarily in Belgium by Delhaize and Galler – is illegal, including under the new FIC Regulation. International law firm Hogan Lovells has calculated that this labelling is in breach of several EU and Belgian regulations.
I am writing, because I do not wish you to be confused about the position of MPOC. We are not against the FIC Regulation: in fact, we support it. We are against deliberate and provocative attempts to use additional labelling to denigrate our products and our people. This ‘No Palm Oil’ labelling is illegal, and it is a source of great frustration to the Malaysian Palm Oil community that the Belgian Government has not taken firm action to remove these labels from products.
This is a primary concern for the trading relations between Malaysian industry and those in Belgium, a point that was certainly highlighted by Belgian media during the recent Trade Mission conducted by Belgian businesses, to Malaysia.
As the Vice-Chair of the ASEAN Delegation in the European Parliament, I feel confident that you will have an understanding and sympathy of the importance of repairing this situation. I would be grateful if you are able to raise with Government Ministers – and indeed the European Commission, who are overseeing food labelling rules across Europe – the importance of resolving this issue.
I would be happy to provide any further information, if it would be helpful, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr Yusof Basiron
Chief Executive Officer
c.c. Y. Bhg. Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor – Chairman, MPOC