Finally, WHO Revised the Flyer that “Mislead” about Palm Oil

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Beginning of May 2020 amidst an increasingly widespread Covid-19 pandemic, palm oil industry and the global public were shocked by an online campaign carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) which provided misleading information related to palm oil.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the WHO has publicated the information that appears to “attack” palm oil by promoting policies that are devoid of scientific evidence. In 2019, WHO published a scientific paper called the “Bulletin of the WHO”. In the bulletin, there is a article entitled The Palm Oil Industry And Noncommunicable Disease, that likens health impact of palm oil production with tobacco production. In this article, WHO itself underlined the need for independent and comprehensive review of the health impact of palm oil, recognizing that there have been mixed results of relevant studies on this issue.

However, what was written by WHO in the article is inversely to what they was campaigned in the Covid-19 pandemic. WHO actually conducted a campaign used information content that was not appropriate based on research by the global experts and nutrionist about benefit palm oil for health.

The WHO Eastern Mediaterranean region publishes online news articles and flyers entitled “Nutrition Advice for Adults during Covid-19”. The news article contains recommendations for “consuming foods containing unsaturated fats (e.g found in fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and corn oil), rather than saturated fats (e.g found in meat fat, palm oil, coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) “.

In addition, the WHO regional Europe also published an article entitled “Food and Nutrition Tips During Self Quarantine”. In the article, there are also recommendations for “reducing foods such as red and fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy products, palm oil, coconut oil, solid shortening and lard”.

The recommendations submitted by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean and European region received protests by palm oil associations such as Dewan Minyak Sawit Indonesia (DMSI), Asosiasi Petani Kelapa Sawit Indonesia (APKASINDO) dan Masyarakat Perkelapasawitan Indonesia (MAKSI). The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) also sent an objection letter regarding the flyer’s publication by WHO East Mediterranean. The protest contains asking WHO to immediately revise the information about palm oil in the flyer by not to spread misleading information which will further worsen the image of palm oil in the global consumers.

The Government of Indonesia, through the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also reacted to what WHO was doing by sending a objection letter as a protest against the online campaign material to WHO representatives in Jakarta. In his letter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked WHO to correcting the article by providing material with a balanced perspective and based on the results of research that stated the consumption of palm oil as a product that is beneficial to health and suitable for consumption during a pandemic.

The protest filed by the Government of Indonesia and the association of oil palm actors received a response. The WHO Eastern Mediterranean region corrected the online flyer “Nutrion Advice for Adults during Covid-19” by replacing the word “dont eat saturated fats” to “eat less saturated fats”. And eliminate the word “palm oil” as an example of foods that contain saturated fats.

 

Palm oil

The steps taken by WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean region are considered quite appropriate by publication the campaign materials that are in accordance with the results of research by the global experts and nutritionists that are valid, not based on black campaigns. What has been done by WHO also needs to be appreciated as an effort to promote positive image of palm oil while reducing the hostility of the global community with palm oil.

 

Awal Mei 2020 ini di tengah pandemi Covid-19 yang semakin meluas, pelaku sawit dan publik global dikejutkan dengan kampanye online yang dilakukan oleh World Health Organization (WHO) yang memberikan informasi yang menyesatkan terkait minyak sawit.

Sayangnya, ini bukan pertama kalinya WHO mempublikasikan informasi yang terkesan “menyerang” minyak sawit dengan mempromosikan kebijakan yang tidak memiliki bukti ilmiah. Pada tahun 2019, WHO menerbitkan makalah ilmiah yaitu “The Buletin of WHO“. Dalam buletin tersebut terdapat sebuah artikel yang berjudul The Palm Oil Industry And Noncommunicable Disease yang menyamakan dampak kesehatan dari produksi minyak kelapa sawit dengan produksi tembakau. Dalam artikel tersebut, WHO juga menekankan perlunya penelitian yang independen dan komprehensif mengenai dampak minyak sawit terhadap kesehatan, mengingat beragamnya penelitian yang tidak konklusif (saling berlawanan) tentang sawit.

Namun, apa yang ditulis oleh WHO dalam artikel tersebut, berbanding terbalik dengan apa yang dikampanyekan di tengah pandemi Covid-19. WHO justru melakukan kampanye dengan menggunakan konten informasi yang tidak sesuai dengan berdasarkan penelitian para ahli dan nutrisionist dunia mengenai manfaat minyak sawit bagi kesehatan.

WHO region Mediaterania Timur mempublikasikan flyer online yang berjudul “Nutrion Advice for Adults during Covid-19”. Flyer tersebut berisi rekomendasi untuk “consume foods containing unsaturated fats (e.g found in fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and corn oil), rather than saturated fats (e.g found in meat fat, palm oil, coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard)“.

Selain itu, WHO regional Eropa juga mempublikasikan artikel berjudul “Food and Nutrition Tips During Self Quarantine”. Dalam artikel tersebut juga terdapat rekomendasi untuk “reducing foods such as red and fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy products, palm oil, coconut oil, solid shortening and lard”.

Rekomendasi yang disampaikan oleh WHO region Mediteranian Timur dan Eropa tersebut mendapatkan protes dari para asosiasi pelaku sawit seperti Dewan Minyak Sawit Indonesia (DMSI), Asosiasi Petani Kelapa Sawit Indonesia (APKASINDO) dan Masyarakat Perkelapasawitan Indonesia (MAKSI). Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) juga turut mengirimkan surat keberatan terkait flyer yang dipublikasikan oleh WHO Mediterania Timur. Protes tersebut berisi meminta WHO untuk segera merevisi informasi tentang minyak sawit dalam flyer tersebut dengan tidak menyebarkan informasi menyesatkan yang akan semakin memperburuk citra minyak sawit di mata konsumen global.

Pemerintah Indonesia melalui Kementerian Luar Negeri RI, juga bereaksi terhadap yang apa yang dilakukan WHO dengan mengirimkan surat protes terhadap materi kampanye online tersebut kepada perwakilan WHO di Jakarta. Dalam suratnya, Kemenlu meminta WHO untuk mengoreksi artikel tersebut dengan memberikan materi dengan perspektif yang seimbang dan berdasarkan hasil penelitian yang menyatakan konsumsi minyak sawit sebagai produk yang bermanfaat bagi kesehatan dan layak dikonsumsi selama pandemi.

Protes yang dilayangkan oleh Pemerintah Indonesia dan asosiasi pelaku sawit tersebut mendapat tanggapan. WHO region Mediterania Eastern mengkoreksi flyer online Nutrion Advice for Adults during Covid-19 dengan mengganti kata “dont eat saturated fats” menjadi “eat less saturated fats“. Dan menghilangkan kata minyak sawit atau “palm oil” sebagai contoh makanan yang mengandung saturated fats.

Langkah yang dilakukan oleh WHO region Mediterania Timur dinilai cukup tepat dengan merevisi materi kampanye sesuai dengan hasil penelitian para ahli dan nutrisionist yang valid bukan berdasarkan black campaign. Apa yang telah dilakukan oleh WHO tersebut juga perlu diapresiasi sebagai upaya untuk mempromosikan citra positif sawit sekaligus mengurangi permusuhan dan pertentangan masyarakat global dengan minyak sawit.

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