Malaysian supermarket delists products labelled ‘palm-oil free’

Mydin, Malaysia’s largest supermarket chain, has announced plans to de-stock any products promoted as “palm-oil free” in a move aimed at discrediting the environmental movement. 

The expansion of palm-oil plantations – the majority of which are located in Malaysia and Indonesia – has led to substantial deforestation of the native habitats of the three surviving species of orangutans, one of which – the Sumatran, (pictured above) – is on the list of endangered species.  

In 1992, the Malaysia government pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations – which typically are planted on land where natural forests have been cleared. Now the government is actively promoting the use of palm oil to boost the nation’s exports of the product, apparently no longer concerned about its environmental impact. 

In July, the Malaysian government promised action against an international school for spreading “anti-palm oil propaganda” and Teresa Kok, Malaysia’s minister of primary industries, this week praised Mydin’s move to ban products promoted as palm-oil free. She said she hoped other retailers would follow Mydin’s example. 

This year, the European Union passed an act to phase out palm oil from renewable fuel by 2030 due to deforestation concerns. 

Malaysia and Indonesia account for about 85 per cent of the world’s palm-oil production, of which about 70 per cent is used in foods. Manufacturers use palm oil because it is inexpensive compared to alternatives – and because it has a high saturation when used in frying.

According to The Edge, the Malaysian government is considering a law banning all products flaunting non-use of the oil. 

Ameer Ali Mydin, MD of Mydin Mohamed Holdings, told a press conference that his stores removed all anti-palm products on Wednesday.

“We must support palm oil,” he said, along with taking steps to counter marketing and branding exercises that people do that discourage consumers to buy palm oil. 

“By labelling something that there is no palm oil, you’re actually telling people that palm oil is bad for you.”

Of course, Mydin’s comment is complete nonsense. The reason marketers promote their products as not containing palm oil is to allow consumers to make an informed choice on whether they should buy the product, based on their concerns for the environment, specifically endangered orangutans. It has nothing to do with consumers’ health. 

Indonesia’s government has also reportedly told some retailers in Jakarta not to stock products with ‘palm-oil free’ labels. 


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