Anti-palm oil article doesn’t reflect our official stand — WHO

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 1): World Health Organisation officials have clarified that a biased article on palm oil-based products in the WHO Bulletin does not reflect the organisation’s official stand on palm oil. 

The WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, Dr Lo Ying-Ru, and its Programme Management and Technical Officer, Dr Paul Soo, made the clarification during a meeting with Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok, the minister said in a statement today. 

The meeting, held on Wednesday, was also attended by officials from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Malaysian Oil Scientists and Technologists Association (MOSTA) and Malaysian Estate Owners Association (MEOA).  

“We note the explanation by Dr Lo that the article was not a study, nor a policy or dietary recommendation of WHO, but was authored by others and published in the bulletin after it was reviewed by its editor,” Kok said. 

She said WHO Malaysia expressed regret that the study was erroneously reported by Reuters as being a WHO study, giving an impression to the public that the study reflected WHO’s official views and stand on palm oil. 

Kok said WHO Malaysia explained that the article was published with a disclaimer and clearly stated as being authored by Sowmaya Kadandale, Robert Marten and Richard Smith, and added “…there is no way that this journal article can be correctly described as a WHO study”. 

“However, the damage has been done as the Reuters’ erroneous interpretation has gained large traction and continues to be published in other sites, as well,” the minister added. 

Kok said while the WHO Bulletin has to date declined to retract the article, “we view that it should preferably be retracted for its biased, flawed
claims.”  

Meanwhile, the MPOC will register its critique of the published study via a Letter to the Editor of the WHO Bulletin, she said. 

She added that both sides at the meeting agreed it would be desirable to hold a joint technical seminar in the region to help correct many of the misinformation surrounding oils and fats, especially palm oil.

The article titled “The Palm Oil Industry and Non Communicable Diseases” had likened the palm oil industry to the tobacco and alcohol lobbyists.

Those who attended Wednesday’s meeting included MPOC chief executive officer Datuk Dr. Kalyana Sundram, MOSTA president Tan Sri Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Augustine Ong, MOSTA council member Datuk Dr. Choo Yuen May and MOSTA international scientific advisory panel members Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr V G Kumar Das, as well as Emeritus Professor Dr. Khor Geok Lin. 

Others included MEOA president Jeffrey Ong, vice-president Gan Tee Jin and committee members Marvath R. Chandran and Khoo Khee Ming.