Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What can I eat? - Palm Oil!!

It has been a few weeks since I first posted about my campaign to cut out Palm Oil from my diet and after some investigation and changes to shopping I have started to settle into a new pattern.
After deciding to give up palm oil I first went through my cupboards to find out which main products were palm oil or palm fat/shea free. The list of convenience foods was frighteningly small.

The extent of Palm Oil exploitation

My Hovis loaf, Cadbury’s Twirls, Iced Buns, Digestive biscuits, Jammy Dodger biscuits and most bizarrely my Bisto gravy all contained the dreaded additive. These are several of my staple food products; please no comments on the healthiness of my diet.

I decided on further investigation that I needed to set some ground rules for what I could and could not eat. Palm Oil is only effective as a cash crop if cultivated as a monoculture in large plantations hence the large loss of rainforest and their impact on orang-utans. Of course the human side of this product is that the trade gives local Asians gainful employment in otherwise poverty stricken countries.  So how do you balance out the environmental impact with social impact? I have decided to plant my flag in the sustainably produced crops. Palm oil is such a vast industry and in so many products that my individual protest is unlikely to have little effect. Campaigning for an outright ban is like trying to move a mountain, instead I think it is more prudent to ensure that any palm oil I buy can  be traced to have been sourced sustainably. This means that my palm oil’s impact has been mitigated.

Global Forest Watch have excellent maps showing the extent of palm oil plantations follow this link to compare sustainable and non-sustainable plantations.

By far the most useful website I have come across in researching the companies using palm oil is the site for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Using this website I quickly discovered that the best companies are actually the supermarkets. All of them have signed up to try and reach 100% of own brand products being sustainable by the end of the year. Some are doing better than others.

The table below shows the percentage of sustainable palm oil used by the main retailers using ACOP reports on the RSPO website.

% of own brand goods using renewable Palm Oil
Joint 1st
Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s
Couldn’t be found on the RSPO site

Having done this work I now know that my best approach is to swap to own brand products, luckily I shop mostly at Sainsbury's and so they have a good score. I can also go back to my Co-op Iced Buns.

However all is not as good as it seems, Cadbury's United Biscuits, Mars and Nestle, large multinational brands do not seem to as good at sourcing their palm oil. So as of last week I have started to boycott their products and will start to look into their policies on the issues. More news as and when I find it.