Let's say no to palm oil in our foods!
Let's say no to palm oil in our foods!
Starting from the 13th of December 2014, European consumers can finally identify the presence of an ingredient that in the past, although used, was not properly labeled. This ingredient is palm oil, concealed for many years behind the broad name within the category 'vegetable oils and fats'. Just to underline the real measure of palm oil use in food processing, it is enough to point out that it represents the main fat in almost all sweet and savory snacks, biscuits, and creams available in the European market, but even lipstick and detergent soap. One third of worldwide consumption of vegetable oil is derived from palm fruit. In recent years, global consumption has more than doubled. The extensive use of this raw material is mainly due to its longer shelf life than butter and other vegetable oils, its butter-like density and because it’s cheap. Palm oil is also widely used by mass caterers who use it to fry and to cook.
'Great Italian Food Trade' (www.greatitalianfoodtrade.com) and 'Il Fatto Alimentare' (ww.ilfattoalimentare.it) started a campaign to say STOP to palm oil use, calling the stakeholders to reflect on the ethical, environmental and health concerns associated with its consumption. The petition, already launched in Italy two months ago, has already collected hundreds of thousands of signatures and statements of commitment from major retailers, to rule out palm products from their brand.
So why should we say NO to palm oil?
1) The production of palm is strictly related to the practice known as land grabbing, which implies the displacement of millions of African and Asian families. It represents also the first cause of deforestation (increasing CO2 emissions) in Southeast Asia as well as the destruction of natural habitats. Palm oil request by the market has encouraged wider cultivation of palm trees with the consequence that every year many kilometers of forests are completely destroyed to obtain palm oil monocultures. All these operations involve human rights violations, such as the abolishment of food sovereignty and the reduction of biodiversity. In order to solve some of these issues and to clean up the image of palm oil there is a sustainable certification (RSPO), which, however, covers only a minor part of the production, without a relevant mitigation of the reported negative consequences due to palm exploitation.
2) Palm oil is used by many food producers because it is cheap and because it can be used in several ways. Despite that, palm oil causes low-grade inflammation that is linked to insulin resistance, obesity and other metabolic diseases that are partially mediated by our resident gut microbes. According to nutritionists a daily intake of high amounts of this ingredient can be dangerous for our health, also because the presence of a relevant percentage of saturated fats. Such a consumption is very frequent due to the presence of this vegetable fat in a large quantity of processed foods, especially in those ones targeted to young people. Although there are no studies in Europe on the individual consumption of palm oil, nutritionists recommend limiting its intake, especially for children who are the most exposed.
'Great Italian Food Trade' and 'Il Fatto Alimentare' are asking food manufacturers and food business operators in general to replace palm oil with other non-hydrogenated vegetable oils or fats, and to implement this commitment as their main challenge. At the same time we solicit supermarkets to delist products containing palm oil.
We call the Ministries of Agriculture of the Member States of the EU to implement the CFS (Committee on World Food Security) - FAO Guidelines for the responsible management of land, forests and waterfields. We solicit, at the same time, the Governments of the Member States of the EU and their agencies to ban foods containing palm oil from public procurements. This clause should be inserted in the terms of reference of the calls regarding public procurements to schools, hospitals and all public authorities. The same ban should be extended to all those products sold by vending machines placed in public areas or in public buildings.
Finally we call the agri-food industries to commit to reformulate products without the use of palm oil, so that here hence on European foods can really stand out to a certain standard of sustainability and quality.
Dario Dongo www.greatitalianfoodtrade.com
Roberto La Pira, www.ilfattoalimentare.it