And It Happened Again…. Chocolate Products from Bali use the “Palm Oil Free” Label
Anti-palm oil campaigns are more intensive and massive all over the world. This movement is also more varied, from demonstration, the spread of hoaxes on social media to the use of the Palm Oil Free label on consumer products. The labeling of Palm Oil Free (POF) on consumer products, both food and non-food products, is considered no longer an ordinary anti-palm oil movement. The labeling is already in the realm of boycotting palm oil and even “banning” the use of palm oil as a raw material for a product.
Products with the POF label are not only found in western countries which often discriminate against palm oil due to trade competition, but it’s also begun to be found on products produced by Indonesian MSMEs. Around 2019, the POF label was found on the packaging of cheese sticks product with the Rella’s Kitchen brand sold at Kem Chicks Jakarta outlets. In early 2021, the Pod Chocolate from Bali was found using packaging labeled Palm Oil Free.
This information was originally raised by the Majalah Sawit Indonesia on February 22, 2021, in this article, the editor also quoted the article on the official Pod Chocolate website as follows: “In 2017, we started to look beyond choclate bars to other chocolate products. Popular chocolate contained more than 50% sugar, uses animal milk, and contains palm oil. Distribution of this cocoa product contributes to the loss of habitat for orangutans, elephants, and tigers”.
However, when traced back to the POD Chocolate website (31/5), their manager changed the text to “In 2017 we started to look beyond chocolate bars to other chocolate products and cacao derivatives starting with chocolate spread. Popular chocolate spreads can be over 50% sugar and animal milk. We want to create chocolate in line with our philosophy of being plant-based, sustainable, healthy, and delicious”.
Although the POD Chocolate producer has revised the information written on its website by removing the word “palm oil” and the sentence of “Distribution of this cocoa product contributes to the loss of habitat for orangutans, elephants, and tigers” which is replaced with the phrase “We want to create chocolate in line with our philosophy of being plant-based, sustainable, healthy, and delicious”, however, the Editor of Majalah Sawit Indonesia again received photos sent by readers regarding the existence of POD Chocolate products labeled No Palm Oil at the Brastagi Tiara Supermarket, North Sumatra on May 29th, 2021.
The information was then followed up by BPOM RI who also coordinated with BPOM Medan to further take several steps such as supervision, guidance, and enforcement. The steps taken by BPOM are considered appropriate because the inclusion of the POF label on products sold in Indonesia has violated the regulation, especially in BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018 concerning Processed Food Labels, Article 67 Point 1, namely “business actors are prohibited to writing statements, descriptions, word/sentence, images, logos, claims and/or visualizations that directly or indirectly demeans the goods and/or services of other parties”.
In the Regulation of Head BPOM 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 natural components of palm oil as their raw material are not allowed to include claims on the “Palm Oil Free” label. For example, dairy products with low-fat claims are allowed because manufacturers have used technology to reduce the natural fat content of milk.
The legal basis for labeling food products in Indonesia is Law no. 12 of 2012 and BPOM Regulation No. 31/2018, as well as international standards such as Codex General Standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Food, also state that labeling food products should aim to provide true and clear information to the public/consumers and should not provide misleading information. Therefore, claims or information showing the characteristics of the product must be re-tested in an accredited laboratory.
Besides violating the regulations regarding food product labels in Indonesia, the use of the Palm Oil Free label on products that are produced by domestic producers also detrimental to Indonesia as the largest palm oil producer country as well as tarnishes the struggles of palm oil industry actors, including millions of smallholders and the Indonesian government that actively defends palm oil and oppose the use of the Palm Oil Free label in the global market. The damage to the image of palm oil due to the use of the POF label is also feared to have implications for reducing competitiveness so that it will affect the Indonesian economy.
Therefore, it needs socialization efforts to supervise and strict action from the Indonesian government including BPOM, the Ministry of Trade, and other relevant stakeholders so that the same thing does not happen again.
Ideally, as fellow Indonesians, we should all collaborate to create and promote local resource-based processed products, without bringing each other down. Chocolate producers in Bali can promote and sell their products, without having to use the Palm Oil Free label that will damage the image of Indonesian palm oil. That way, Indonesia’s economic sector will be stronger to create prosperity for its people.
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