A new EU law demanding palm oil is labelled on food packaging in Europe will help protect threatened forests in Africa and Asia, Catherine Bearder MEP said today.
Deforestation for palm oil has eaten into thousands of acres of forest and destroyed habitats for a range of animals, including orangutans, tigers and birds.
However, the new regulation means food manufacturers can no longer hide the ingredient in their products under the generic term 'vegetable oil'.
Catherine said: "This is great news. Consumers must be given the choice of whether to buy products with palm oil or to avoid them. This will now be done with mandatory labeling across Europe.
"I am not calling for a total boycott of palm oil, but there is demand in Europe for people to know about when sustainable palm oil is used in food. I hope this will encourage the industry to change."
Palm oil is a hidden ingredient found in almost half of packaged products across Europe, including chocolate, biscuits, cereals, margarine and crisps.
It is hoped when the law comes into force in 2015 companies will be encouraged to shift to more sustainable sources of the ingredient.
The decision came after the Clear Labels, Not Forests campaign, which was launched in March by a team of conservationists, including the Oxford-based Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS).
Helen Buckland, UK director of SOS, said: "This is a significant day in our fight to protect precious rainforests and biodiversity.
"The spread of oil palm plantations is a major driver of deforestation in South East Asia. Consumers want to know if products contain palm oil and if so, where that palm oil comes from.
"This new regulation will make palm oil visible on ingredients lists, enabling consumer choice and providing leverage for European companies to clean up their supply chains and only use certified sustainable palm oil."