M'sia lauds Belgium's €1 million penalty for palm oil defamation


Malaysia has hailed a European court ruling penalising those who misrepresent and tell lies about palm oil’s high nutritional value and good agricultural practices by oil palm planters.

"I know the court ruling in Belgium is not easy to enforce, but this is an acknowledgement that the truth about palm oil nutrition and oil palm planting prevails.

"The Belgian court's ruling to Delhaize to immediately cease such illegal claims on its food labels is a step in the right direction," Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong told NST Business in an interview here.

“Now we're seeing a court in Europe making a stand to punish those who misrepresent and tell lies about palm oil,” he added.

Mah noted that earlier, Delhaize, a Belgian supermarket which merged with Ahold in 2016 to create a €40 billion retail empire, had cited “potential health concerns” with palm oil in an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority.

But a couple of weeks ago, a Belgian court ruled that Nutella rival Choco cannot advertise wrongful claims that its chocolate spread is healthier and more eco-friendly than Nutella through its "No Palm Oil" food labelling.

The court ruled that supermarket chain Delhaize will be penalised up to €1 million for continued and repeated wrongful and illegal claims defaming palm oil.

The dispute began with Delhaize's 2013 advertising campaign claiming its best-selling Choco spread is “better for you and more eco-friendly because it doesn’t contain any palm oil,” unlike Nutella.

Choco is manufactured with sunflower oil, cocoa butter and coconut oil, while Nutella contains hazelnut, sugar, palm oil and cocoa solids.

Nutella's manufacturer, Ferrero, took heart and sued Delhaize for hurting its wholesome reputation.

For the past five years, confectionery giant Ferrero, which posts more than US$10 billion in revenue a year, persevered its way through the Belgian judiciary system. Its courageous initiative has set the record straight that Choco's advertising is deceptive and damaging to its bestseller, Nutella.

Mah reiterated that Ferrero's victory in Belgium is also a long-awaited milestone for oil palm planters across Malaysia and Indonesia in the trade politics of the lucrative global vegetable oils market.


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