Public could get chance to vote on palm oil labelling

Orangutans are under threat because of the deforestation (Getty)
Orangutans are under threat because of the deforestation (Getty)

A campaign to have products containing palm oil labelled in supermarkets is going to a trans-Tasman vote on Friday.

The oil is linked to mass deforestation and the destruction of animal habitats in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

At a meeting in Parliament nine Australian ministers, and New Zealand Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew, will decide whether the policy should move to public consultation.

Unmask Palm Oil director Ben Dowdle is hoping it will.

"It's not a new policy and it's not a difficult policy, it's just something that has been done around the rest of the world so we are really lagging in the realm of vegetable oil."

Mr Dowdle is part of the 'Ask for Choice' campaign which has partnered with Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo, Wellington Zoo and Orana Wildlife Park.

So far 83,000 people have signed online letters or postcards asking the ministers to vote for mandatory labelling.

Mr Dowdle says New Zealand is lagging behind the US and Europe, where palm oil products are easily recognised.

"At the moment consumers can't tell if their product contains palm oil which makes it impossible for a consumer to demand that a company uses certified, sustainable palm oil," he says.

"The simple way of doing it would be bringing in the same policies that they have in the European Union, United States so that consumers can simply look at the ingredients list and find out if the product contains palm oil."

Palm oil has become the world's most widely consumed vegetable oil. Current global production equals 62 million metric tonnes a year and that figure is set to double by 2020.

Around 50 percent of products in supermarkets contain palm oil.

There's no way of knowing which way Ms Goodhew will vote, as the meeting's happening behind closed doors.