Expo 2015, the misinformation at the Malaysian pavilion on palm continues
Last week we wrote an open letter to the Expo Commissioner, Giuseppe Sala, demanding the removal of a sign displayed at the Malaysian pavilion, in which the absurd opposition to the European law of legitimate indications like “palm oil free” on food labels was theorized. The Commissioner did not have time to answer us, perhaps because of the most important issues emerged in the meanwhile in Milan, and in any case the sign was removed. We checked today on the occasion of a visit which, however, has enabled us to discover other problems.
The Malaysian pavilion devotes an entire space to the promotion of palm oil. A promotion in itself understandable, given that much of the territory of that country has been deforested to produce palm. To the point of forcing local producers to seek new forests to ‘convert’ into mono-intensive crops of palm oil, outside national borders. But it is peculiar – and indeed, unacceptable – that those who dared to cite the opposition to the European right to a simple statement on labels, such as ‘palm oil free’, should come to claim the most unlikely virtues to health associated with the consumption of palm oil, in the most blatant violation of the criteria in force in the EU.
‘It prevents Heart attacks …’, ‘… Anticancer Properties’, ‘Easy to digest’, ‘it helps to increase the beneficial HDL cholesterol’. Are you kidding me ??? EC Regulation 1924/06, on nutrition and health claims that can be used in the advertising of foods, is imperative on the prohibition of any reference to diseases. Heart attacks and cancer, no way. The so-called ‘health claims’ of digestive functions, antioxidants and interaction with blood cholesterol, in turn, can be allowed only if they are based on clinical studies in double-blind placebo-controlled trials in healthy subjects, published in international scientific journals with high ‘impact factor’ and subjected to ‘peer review’, after an evaluation by the European Food and Safety Authority and approval of the European Commission.
‘Without Cholesterol’, ‘Without Trans-Fatty acids’. The European Regulation has annexed an exhaustive list of the only permitted nutritional claims in Europe, of the communication methods and of the conditions that a food must meet to be able to boast itself of a so-called ‘nutrition claim’. It is forbidden to report to the cholesterol in the product, to avoid misunderstandings of consumers with cholesterol in the blood. And it is also forbidden to refer to the so-called ‘Trans-Fatty Acids’ (TFA). Indeed, cholesterol and trans-fatty acids – unlike the monounsaturated fatty acids (of which olive oil is rich in) and polyunsaturated fats (typical of seed oils) – are excluded from the voluntary information on nutrition labeling.
‘Balanced profile of saturated fat’, ‘Nutritional Wellness’, ‘Rich in in carotenoids, provitamin A’. It is misleading, as well as illegal, to refer to a hypothetical ‘balance of saturated fat’. What does this statement mean for the consumer? Maybe that one should prefer a margarine made from palm compared to butter? And why, on what scientific basis? As for the alleged ‘nutritional well-being’, as with any general statement that in no way implies a favorable relationship between the consumption of a food and health, it is necessary that the product possesses those characteristics, and that it actually displayed a nutritional or health related ‘claim’ on the label in compliance with Regulation EC 1924/06. About the alleged richness of carotenoids, it would be interesting to learn the values on the refined oil that ends on our plates as a food ingredient.
In relation to all of the above, what rises is just a single doubt. To whom should we write our next open letter, to the already overburdened Expo Commissioner or to other authorities in charge of consumer protection?