The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has become Australia's first industry association to gain membership to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the not-for-profit organisation supporting the sustainable use and production of palm oil.

The RSPO was established by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), industry stakeholders and NGOs in 2004.

The industry-led association - with more than 400 members worldwide - has established requirements for palm oil producers to produce sustainable palm oil.

AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said many Australian food and grocery manufacturers have already made a commitment to sourcing and using sustainable, certified palm oil and AFGC’s RSPO membership consolidates this move.

"Industry strongly supports the need to produce and source palm oil in a more sustainable way, minimising environmental impact of growing this important product," Carnell said.

"Australia's food and grocery manufacturers are moving towards using RSPO palm oil as it becomes more widely available - this allows the economic development benefits of palm oil production to local communities to continue and allows them time to comply with the rigorous requirements of RSPO."

Palm oil is an important ingredient for the food and grocery manufacturing industry in Australia. It’s widely used in about 80% of products in some categories including baked goods, confectionery, shampoos and crèmes. Palm oil also has certain qualities and characteristics that make it more attractive than many other oils and fats including being a semi-solid at room temperature.

"Replacing palm oil in products is not a simple process and AFGC will continue to work hard to ensure that all parties - consumers, producing countries and food and grocery manufacturers - are part of the palm oil solution," Carnell said.

In a recent Senate submission to oppose the 'Truth in Labelling - Palm Oil Bill 2009', AFGC highlighted that labels should only be used on food products to highlight critical information relating to health, nutrition and safety. "From a health perspective, it’s important for consumers to know how much saturated fat is contained in a product not where the saturated fat is sourced from," Carnell said.

AFGC's sister body in New Zealand, the FGC, was the first grocery sector industry association in the world to join the RSPO.