Following the repercussions of several food scandals to hit the airwaves, it has become increasingly apparent that no-one really has a clue what goes into their food. The latest product to join the fray is palm oil. Under European law, manufacturers are not actually obliged to list this as an ingredient on product labeling until December 2014 – meaning many consumers could end up buying food containing unethically sourced palm oil without being any the wiser. With several rainforests under threat from destruction as areas are cleared for palm plantations, Rainforest Foundation UK has teamed up with Ethical Consumer magazine to raise awareness of what is quickly becoming a global ethical issue (palm oil is a core ingredient in numerous food products).
Vast areas of Indonesian rainforest have already been cleared, and Africa’s Congo Basin is next on the hit list. Unsustainable palm oil production is not only threatening the future of the world’s rainforests, however, as the effects of destruction are much more far-reaching. Species of wildlife – including the forest elephant and lowland gorilla – will lose their habitats, and the indigenous people who rely entirely on the rainforest for their livelihood will also be ultimately affected.
Ethical Consumer’s co-director, Tim Hunt, revealed, “consumer power has the potential to help save the Congo’s rainforests and its wildlife that is under threat from palm oil production.” As a result, shoppers are being urged to take an ethical stance this Easter, and buy their eggs from companies whom the campaign has identified as being ethically responsible when it comes to palm oil – the top two companies being Divine and Booja Booja.
Whilst it is currently only chocolate that has been looked at, the campaign will also target biscuits and cereals, and full lists of which companies use palm oil and its derivatives in their products – and how environmentally sustainable their usage is – will be disclosed at www.rainforestfoundationuk.org.