Every few months I check in on the palm oil industry. The optimist in me hopes there has been a change and things are getting better. I just checked in and did some research this week. What I found sparked me to write another article about it. Timing was perfect to tie-in the candy gorging of Halloween.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly this week:
Trick-or-treat has a different meaning for me. It’s not just about the costume, it’s about the candy you’re handing out. Is it an environmental trick or an environmental treat?
What kind of candy are you handing out for Halloween?
If you stop by my house, I’ll be handing out and eating all kinds of palm oil free candies. You can find the environmental treat palm oil free candy, it just takes some investigation in the stores.
The palm oil crisis is linked to all of us. We all ingest or put palm oil on our body in one form or another everyday. Palm oil is found in over 50 percent of grocery store products such as lotions, soaps, crackers, shampoo and of course candy. It’s an additive in foods to provide vitamin A, make soap bubbly, and make our chewy cookies soft. In the last 30 years, palm oil has gone from being unheard of, to being consumed in large quantities around the world. The quick palm oil rise in our markets, has caused major devastation of rainforest habitats.
Every time we buy a product with palm oil we are supporting the destructive palm oil industry. In 2011, 90 percent of the world’s supply of palm oil came from Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil grows in a rainforest climate, wet and warm. Rainforest-rescue.org, a nonprofit based out of Germany working to protect worldwide rain forests, estimates a rainforest area the equivalent of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour. That’s right, huge tracts of rain forests being annihilated. Rainforests, full of remarkable species of plants and animals such as the charismatic tiger and a close relative of humans, orangutans. Some scientists speculate that orangutans will be extinct in the next 25 years, while tigers are on the same path with more tigers in captivity than in the wild. The main cause of population decline is habitat loss, largely due to palm oil plantations.
Companies big and small have slashed and burned rainforests in Indonesia to make room to plant palm oil plantations. The rainforest destruction continues on even with the push for sustainable palm oil. Recently Nestle and Dunkin Donuts, amongst many other companies, have pledged to transition over to utilizing only sustainable palm oil in their products. This would be great news and is definitely better than no limitations, however, the sustainable palm oil industry in practice has problems. Big companies are using their weight to get around sustainable certification standards by behavior such as challenging the the definition of deforestation and claiming it isn’t straightforward. In my opinion, if you destroy habitat, you destroy habitat so if you cut down a tree, you cut down a tree. Companies have now forced the classification of forest into high quality and low quality to determine what can be sacrificed.
As you gear up for trick-or-treaters at your door, take a second to check out the candy you’re handing out. The ingredient list doesn’t spell it out for you either. Palm oil can be found as over 30 different names on labels such as palmitate, sodium lauryl sulphate (often derived from palm oil) and palm kernel oil. There are plenty of candy varieties without palm oil it just takes some investigation.
Halloween is a great time of year to further explore the foods you’re eating and how they connect to our environment. Once you’ve figured out your palm oil free candy, take a peak at your milk. Organic skim milk even has palm oil.