BPOM as Front Line Who Supervision and Bans Food Products with “Palm Oil Free” Label
Several time ago, palm oil industry player were shocked by the “Palm Oil Free” label that given to Hazelnut Butter product manufactured by Kraft Heinz Company. This marketing strategy is considered to have violated the principles of sustainable palm oil, where the company is a member of RSPO which should be at the front line in promoting the production and consumption of sustainable palm oil.
The Palm Oil Free (POF) labeling movement on various products that produced by multinational companies, both food products such as biscuits, chocolate, jam, instant noodles and non-food products such as make-up, shampoo, soap and others, is not a new thing. The POF label has also been legalized with the existence of an international Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark (POFCAP). Until 2019, 20 countries including Australia, the European Union and the UK have adopted this certification.
In Europe, The POF labeling by multinational companies as end-users of the palm oil industry is actually a result of pressure and coercion from anti-palm oil NGOs. The argumentation behind using the POF label is related to health issues, social issues, environmental issues (deforestation and biodiversity loss), even though their goals behind the label is trade competition and protectionism of their vegetable oils.
Not only in the global market, food product with Palm Oil Free label is also commonly found on products that traded on the Indonesian market. These labels are mostly found on imported products sold in large supermarkets. Along with the trend of online shopping in various marketplaces and e-commerce, imported food products that labeled Palm Oil Free are also widely consumed by Indonesian people.
Apart from imported products, the Palm Oil Free label is also found in food products produced by domestic producers. One of them is produced by Rella’s Kitchen which used the Palm Oil Free label on cheesestick products and other processed products.
The labeling of Palm Oil Free label especially on food products traded on the Indonesian market that can be accessed by the Indonesian people, has the potential to threaten the future of the national palm oil industry. The use of POF label on products products by domestic producers also can “injuring” palm oil stakeholders, who are struggling to defend palm oil as a strategic product of Indonesia and opposing the labeling of Palm Oil Free label in global markets such as Europe.
The National Agency of Drug and Food Control (Badan Pengawasan Obat dan Makanan or BPOM) as a government agency in task to drug and food control in Indonesia, also has regulations regarding the prohibition of the labeling Palm Oil Free on food and other processed products that traded in Indonesia. This regulation reflect BPOM’s effort to defend palm oil as a superior product in Indonesia. In addition, POF labeling have implications for reduced competitiveness and it will affect the Indonesian economy, so that strict regulation are needed in the supervision and prohibition of the use of these labels.
In an online discussion entitled “Misleading Food Labeling Threaten Palm Oil Market“, BPOM Deputy for Processed Food Supervision, Reri Indriani, said that the labeling of “Palm Oil Free” breaking the rules, that is BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018 concerning Processed Food Labels, Article 67 Point 1, where the label indirectly compares with other processed food containing palm oil. If there are still products that include this label, BPOM will impose a sanctions.
The legal basis for labeling food products in Indonesia such as Law no. 12 of 2012 and BPOM Regulations No. 31/2018, as well as international standards like the Codex General Standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Food, also states that labeling food products should aim to provide true and clear information to the public/consumers and not to provide misleading information.
Meanwhile, the label Palm Oil Free has an unfavorable connotation that palm oil is harmful to health. Even though, the negative effects of palm oil are currently not scientifically proven. The results of research by experts state that consumption of palm oil is beneficial for health because it contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids that relatively balanced, it is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E and other antioxidants, and contains essential fatty acids. This shows that the label provides misleading information for consumers because it is not in accordance with scientific facts.
In the Head of BPOM Regulation No. 13/2016 concerning Supervision of Claims on Labels and Processed Food Products, article 10, also states that food products that naturally do not contain certain components are prohibited from claiming such component-free content. This means that food products that do not contain palm oil components naturally as their raw material are not allowed to include claims on the “Palm Oil Free” label. With this regulation, the use of the Palm Oil Free label only for marketing strategies and following market trends to attract consumers even though their product not contain palm oil, is prohibited.
In addition to supervising before and after distribution/traded and enforcement of the sanctions, BPOM also provides technical guidance socialization to business actors, especially the household industry and district health offices regarding the prohibition of the use of the Palm Oil Free label on their products.
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