A Rainforest Foundation ethical food product guide based on companies’ palm oil use unjustly discourages the use of palm oil even if it is sustainably sourced, claims the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
The Rainforest Foundation UK guide released last week ranked chocolate products based on their palm oil use, with a top score available to companies that use no palm oil, as well as to those that use 100% segregated RSPO-certified palm oil, whereby sustainably sourced palm oil is kept physically separate throughout the supply chain. Companies that used palm oil certified through other RSPO certification mechanisms were unable to achieve full marks.
In a letter to the Rainforest Foundation, RSPO communications director Anne Gabriel said: “The initiative generally encourages companies not to use palm oil or its derivatives. The palm oil sector is not as simple as many envisage it to be. Complex solutions are required for a complex sector.
“Indeed this sector is riddled with detrimental consequences from unsustainable practices – it is for this reason that the RSPO is highly committed to making radical transformation in ensuring sustainable palm oil becomes the norm.”
The Rainforest Foundation says it launched the campaign to highlight deforestation as a result of unsustainable palm oil production, and to give consumers information about palm oil in the products they buy. European food manufacturers are not required to identify the specific vegetable oils used in their products until December 2014, when the Food Information for Consumers regulation comes into force.
“Consumers should be empowered to make informed purchasing decisions, understanding the impact of the production of the products they pick,” the Rainforest Foundation said.
The organisation says it intends to issue further food product guides over the next couple of months covering categories such us bread, biscuits, cereals, spreads and snacks.
Gabriel said in her letter that the RSPO welcomed the acknowledgement given to its certification in the Rainforest Foundation’s methodology, but some organisations and brands mentioned in the ranking were given very low rankings despite commitments to RSPO certification.
She added: “Supporting the sustainable production of palm oil is a far more constructive approach than simply boycotting palm oil outright which can actually bring about even more distressing consequences.”
The RSPO argues that palm oil yields four to ten times more oil per hectare then other oils, so sustainably sourced palm oil can be an eco-friendly option for helping meet rising global demand for vegetable oil. The organisation says that about 15% of the world’s crude palm oil currently is RSPO certified.