Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Iceland to become first United Kingdom supermarket to ban palm oil

Iceland to become first United Kingdom supermarket to ban palm oil

Iceland is to become the first major United Kingdom supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand products, amid concerns that huge swathes of rainforest in Southeast Asia are being destroyed for its production.

An endangered orangutan in Indonesia. Palm oil is used in products from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels.

Increasing demand for palm oil is still having devastating effects on wildlife, habitats and people where it is grown, and sustainable palm oil schemes are failing to mitigate these impacts. It highlights that a more regulatory approach may be needed, like due diligence regulations requiring importers to avoid palm oil produced through deforestation. Other products that the supermarket chain sells may still contain palm oil.

"Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying "no to palm oil"," Iceland managing director Richard Walker said in a statement.

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The process has been linked to bad air pollution, deforestation, and the destruction of habitats for wild animals, like orangutans. Iceland said Nugent is working to replace palm oil with fats and oils that aren't destroying rainforests - The Guardian said this includes oils like vegetable or rapeseed oils. Before getting rid of palm oil, we should ask ourselves: what is the impact of the alternatives?

Despite the high level of concern over the effect palm oil has on the environment in countries where it is grown, a survey of more than 5,000 United Kingdom consumers found about a third were not sure what palm oil is.

"This journey has shown me that, currently, no major supermarket or food manufacturer can substantiate any claim that the palm oil they use is truly sustainable, as the damage being caused to the global environment and communities in South East Asia is just too extensive".

The oil's production has reportedly been the reason for around 8% of the world's deforestation between 1990 and 2008.

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Palm oil cultivation has resulted in massive deforestation that has left some species without a home.

The company said that it was taking the product out of 130 food lines, which will reduce demand by more than 500 tonnes per year.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, said Iceland's move was a direct response to the palm oil industry's "failure to clean up its act".

The supermarket, known for its frozen food offering, said that the controversial ingredient has already been taken out of its own-label range, with the rest to be reformulated by the end of the year.

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