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