Indonesia tells supermarkets to remove palm oil-free products

Indonesia has told some retailers in Jakarta to remove food products with “palm oil-free” labels from their shops as the government seeks to protect its key export, Reuters reports.

Palm oil was under scrutiny due to concerns over its environmental impact and Indonesian exports of the product had slowed, the news agency wrote on 22 August.

The country's Trade Ministry had conducted inspections at over a dozen supermarkets in Jakarta and goods with “palm oil-free” labels on their packaging – mostly locally-made foods and snacks – were removed from display, said Ojak Simon Manurung, director of goods and services circulation supervision at the ministry.

Manurung told reporters that the ministry conducted the inspection after Indonesia’s Drug and Food Control Agency (BPOM) said “palm oil-free” labelling did not meet its criteria.

BPOM said it would not approve the distribution of products with “palm oil-free” labels, saying that palm oil was “safe” and the labels were reducing the vegetable oil’s competitiveness.

Earlier this year, Malaysian authorities appealed to retailers to refrain from importing food products with “no palm oil” or “palm oil-free” labels.

Tutum Rahanta, deputy chairman of Indonesia’s retailer association (Aprindo), said retailers would cooperate with authorities.

“If the aim of the labels was to discredit (palm oil), I think it is fair for Indonesia to protect its main product with its own rules,” he told Reuters.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil.