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Zoos Victoria pulls Cadbury chocolate from shelves over palm oil controversy

Images: Getty
Images: Getty

Zoos Victoria will no longer sell Cadbury chocolate as it takes a stand against manufacturers it claims “refuse to come clean” on how they source their palm oil.

The organisation will also pull Natural Confectionery Company lollies from shelves.

The decision comes after an audit of food sold at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary with an aim of ensuring the zoos only sold wildlife-friendly sustainable palm oil products.

What’s the deal with palm oil?

Palm oil is used in scores of food products, but the process of making palm oil is controversial.

It’s made from the oil palm tree, which means its production contributes to deforestation. Some figures suggest palm oil production is behind 8 per cent of the world’s deforestation.

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And as the deforestation occurs, animal habitats are destroyed – including that of the orangutan, an endangered species.

According to research published in the Current Biology journal, the quest for palm oil has triggered the death of 100,000 orangutans over the last 16 years.

But it’s not just orangutans. Rhinos, elephants and tigers have also suffered habitat loss.

What does Zoos Victoria want to do?

It claims Cadbury and the Natural Confectionery Company’s parent company Mondelez were given time to comply with Zoos Victoria’s palm oil sourcing standards.

However, as Zoos Victoria claims, Mondelez “refused” to comply.

Pulling the products from its shelves, the zoo is urging consumers to take a similar stand.

It said concerned Australians can ask their favourite brands on social media about whether the “vegetable oil” listed on their products is disguising palm oil under other ingredient names.

“Consumer research shows that 95 per cent of Australians want clear mandatory labelling of palm oil, so they can make an informed decision on what they consume,” said Zoos Victoria CEO Jenny Gray.

“Whether that’s chocolate Easter eggs or hot cross buns, it’s pretty simple: we all just want to know what is in the products we consume and how the use of these ingredients affects the habitat of the precious wildlife we care about.”

Grey said mandatory labelling of product ingredients – rather than allowing the catch-all phrase “vegetable oil” is a start towards building a more sustainable supply chain.

Where is Australia at compared to the rest of the world?

We’re a bit behind.

US, Canadian and EU regulations mean those consumers know exactly what is in their food.
“We believe that Australians have the same right to know what is in the products they are consuming,” Gray said.

“The Victorian Government supported mandatory labelling as a priority back in 2016, and yet we are still waiting for the Australian Government and other states to make the change. The wildlife under threat from deforestation for palm oil plantations can’t wait any longer.”

Is banning palm oil the solution?

According to Zoos Victoria community campaigns senior manager, Ben Sanders, no it’s not.

Noting that the zoo has worked to help suppliers commit to only using sustainable palm oil, he said many companies as large as Mondelez are already on track to sustainable palm oil use by 2023.

“A ban on palm oil in not a feasible solution as that would likely drive a market for other edible oils that require more land to produce, threatening wildlife in other ways,” Sanders said.

“That’s why all Zoos Victoria suppliers that use palm oil anywhere in their business must, as a minimum, have a commitment to source 100 per cent Segregated Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and be a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSCPO) – an independent, global auditor of the chain of palm oil production.”

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