Yesterday, you may have seen various reports about the banned Iceland/Greenpeace advert which shares the plight of the orangutans through Rang-tan’s story. If you have not yet seen it, I really recommend you go check it out.
Seeing this and the #nopalmoilchistmas got me thinking about just how many products that contain palm oil. It is literally everywhere – food, cosmetics, cleaning products. Is this really all necessary?
At 66 million tons annually, palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. Its low world market price and properties that lend themselves to processed foods have led the food industry to use it in half of all supermarket products. Palm oil can be found in frozen pizzas, biscuits and margarine, as well as body creams, soaps, makeup, candles and detergents.
What is the problem with Palm Oil?
- Deforestation and therefore contributions to climate change…Day after day, huge tracts of rainforest in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are being bulldozed or torched to make room for more plantations, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
- Extinction of species… As the palm is harvested, habitats are destroyed and so species including the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger are being pushed closer to extinction.
- Human Rights Violations…Smallholders and indigenous people who have inhabited and protected the forest for generations are often brutally driven from their land.
- Health impacts… refined palm oil contains large amounts of harmful fatty acid esters that are known to damage DNA and cause cancer.
What can we do?
Much of the palm oil we consume appears in a number of processed forms, ‘derivatives’ of the oil itself. This can make it tricky when shopping for Palm Oil free products. A derivative of Palm Oil IS Palm Oil usage. It’s the same thing. So the key is to recognise the building blocks of these common derivatives.
My top Palm Oil free food heros
- Peanut butter – I love Whole Earth and Meridian because they are 100% organic peanuts. No palm oil in sight!
- Breakfast Cereal – Rude health. All of their cereals are palm oil free!
- Bread – Waitrose, their instore bakes are widely palm oil free, the Stonebaked Grand Mange is a particular favourite
Get back to basics when cooking. Using raw ingredients that haven’t undergone lots of processing will dramatically reduce your palm oil consumption.
It is almost impossible to live on an entirely palm oil free diet so make sure that when you have no other choice, you are buying products using sustainable sources. Check out this list to help you when you shop.
Other ways to help
Unfortunately, palm oil isn’t only in our foods and even then it can be difficult to avoid. In order to make the least impact from your lifestyle think before you buy. A quick google search can often help you to source information about your cleaning products and cosmetics but my best tip would be to buy local and to buy products that keep their manufacturing simple and low stage.