Frozen food retailer Iceland has pledged to cut palm oil for all of its own-label food, claiming to be the first supermarket in the UK to do so.
The ingredient will be removed from all of the retailer’s products by the end of 2018, with more than 50% already reformulated. A total of 130 products will be affected by these changes.
Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: “Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’.
“We don’t believe there is such a thing as guaranteed ‘sustainable’ palm oil available in the mass market, so we are giving consumers a choice to say no to palm for the first time.”
Walker claimed that no major supermarket or food manufacturer could substantiate any claim that the palm oil they used was truly sustainable.
‘Failure to clean up its act’
Commenting on Iceland’s decision to cut palm oil from its products, John Sauven, executive director of environmentalist group Greenpeace UK, said: “Iceland has concluded that removing palm oil is the only way it can offer its customers a guarantee that its products do not contain palm oil from forest destruction. This decision is a direct response to the palm oil industry’s failure to clean up its act.”
However, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), one of the world’s largest palm oil certification schemes, did not agree with the solution Iceland is adopting.
RSPO’s chief executive officer Darrel Webber warned that completely eliminating palm oil from products could lead to even more harm than good.
“We should let consumers know that palm trees produce four to ten times more oil per hectare than any other oil crop,” said Webber. “Therefore, eliminating palm oil might lead to the use of more land with higher risks of deforestation.
‘Expense of Amazon forest’
“What if we were to discover that palm oil is replaced by butter from cows fed with unsustainable soy grown at the expense of the Amazon forest instead?”
Webber called on Iceland and other retailers to work with the supply chain to promote the use of sustainable standards for palm oil production.
According to a World Wildlife Fund report, Searching for Alternatives, switching from palm oil to other vegetable oils “would not solve the problem but only shift it elsewhere and, in part, even exacerbate it. More land would be required, more greenhouse gas emissions would be generated, and more species would be endangered.”
Meanwhile, last month, a Dutch palm oil producer has teamed up with a dairy ingredients firm to support small farmers in Malaysia.
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