A decision on palm oil labelling has been put off until next year after government ministers called for more research. The delay is a huge disappointment for consumers who want to know whether the oil is in the products they’re buying.

Oil palm plantations are linked with deforestation and habitat loss for endangered species such as orang-utan and Sumatran tigers.

The oil is estimated to be used in about 50% of supermarket products. However, labelling rules mean it doesn’t have to be disclosed and can hide under the catch-all “vegetable oil”.

At a meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on 25 November, ministers requested further work on this “very complex” issue.

While the Forum is still grappling with labelling, it’s already mandatory elsewhere. Palm oil labelling was introduced in the EU in 2014. Given the failure of voluntary industry schemes to provide reliable information about palm oil in consumer goods, the Forum’s decision leaves consumers in limbo.

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