Palm oil perfidy

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

If I thought finding ethical dairy milk substitutes was tricky – well, don’t get me started on dairy-free margarines to replace butter.

Two words. Palm oil.

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Palm oil is in EVERYTHING. One of Caroline’s exaggerations, of course, but it IS in a whole lot of things apart from margarines. It’s in cream cheese, biscuits, oven chips, cakes, chocolate – in fact, about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. It’s in lipsticks, detergent, soaps, shampoo and let’s not forget biodiesel.

So what?

Here’s an extract from Say No To Palm Oil

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“The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.”

So – irresponsible cultivation of palm oil has a detrimental impact on the environment, on wildlife and on indigenous people.

When I began my dairy-free life I started off feeling very virtuous, using a product called Pure.

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Pure! Brilliant marketing, eh? I was taken in by it, less conscientious about checking content in the early days of upping my ethical game. Strangely enough, if you look at their very fine website, it doesn’t list the ingredients of the products.

It does on the packaging, though, in teensy-weensy writing:

Water, Sunflower Oil (35%), Vegetable Oils (Palm Oil, Linseed Oil), Salt (0.75%), Flavouring, Vitamin E, Vitamin A & D, Colour (Carotenes), Vitamin B12

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I’ve started making my own spread now. Here’s a link to the recipe: Homemade Artisan Vegan Butter by Miyoko Schinner. (I adapt it slightly, definitely NOT using almond milk, but using a mixture of oat milk and single soya cream). It’s delicious – as long as you don’t mind a slightly coconutty taste.

 

And now there’s Flora Freedom, which claims it uses SUSTAINABLE palm oil. Well, good for Unilever for making an effort. I’d love to believe it. On the website they say they are ‘committed to using sustainable palm oil’. Annoying Caroline contacted them and said that ‘being committed to’ is not the same as ‘actually doing something’…

Their reply:

“Our vision is that in 2020, the whole industry will move to 100% sustainable palm oil. Our commitment to sustainable palm oil is not new. In the mid-1990s, we started developing Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines for palm oil.

And in 2004 we, together with WWF, became a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the objective of which is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through global standards and stakeholder engagement. By the end of 2012 we reached our target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil, three years ahead of schedule.”

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The slight doubt in my mind, after all my research, is that the supply chains are so very complex that it’s hard to know if they can be absolutely one hundred percent sure that their palm oil is responsibly sourced.

But…at least they are trying.

And so am I.

 

 

 

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