Going palm oil free
Is it possible to completely avoid palm oil?

Feb
21

Five days in and I’m continuing to enjoy delicious palm oil free bread from my new breadmaker. I should add a line of caution though …

Using individual ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, sunflower oil, skimmed milk powder) is guaranteed palm oil free. But the ready made mixes may not be. Sainsbury’s mix for brown bread (purchased today) is fine, but some others, such as cheese and onion breads and focaccias, are not. As always, it’s down to scrutinising labels.

And then there’s butter. There is Lurpak spreadable in the fridge, but I couldn’t tell from the ingredients if it was palm oil free. So, my bread and cheese for lunch was eaten with no butter or margarine. And, fresh from the machine and still moist, that was fine.

But I’d forgotten my own research! I look into these issues, campaign and blog about them, and even I forgot which butters were OK from earlier in this very blog. So, I have the Sainsbury’s equivalent with no real need to have bought it. Another plus for Sainsbury’s though, their clear labelling meant that I trusted them more than I did Lurpak.

And, after a bad week, I have realised there is Green and Black’s ice cream in the freezer. Many ice creams contain palm oil. Green and Blacks, thankfully, does not. Email from last year from G&B checked … ingredients list checked … all is well.

Feb
19

Today I was at work – no chance to cook, prepare or buy food for myself; at the mercy of the staff restaurant and work colleagues. On a day full of birthdays the office was brimming with biscuits, cookies, breadsticks and cakes, all oozing with palm oil.

Or, so I thought … fortunately for me our local supermarket to work is Sainsbury’s, so palm oil was clearly marked where it occurred. Which left one thing with palm oil noticeably absent – chocolate caramel shortcake squares! Thank you Sainsbury’s for giving me one tasty alternative among the treats.

Even more exciting was the arrival of a brand new gadget to solve my grainy problem … a bread maker! Tonight’s dinner, courtesy of my mother, was a gorgeous chilli served with fresh, crusty, palm-oil free bread. Gorgeous.

breadmaker

Feb
19

Another dilemma – today I had bagels in the freezer. These were fresh bakery-made Sainsbury’s bagels, and I hope that because they were made on-site they don’t have palm oil. But I don’t *know* that.

Here’s the real difficulty. Go to google, run a search on ‘Sainsbury’s bagels “palm oil” ‘. Where does the number one search get you? It gets you to this page – a fine piece of inquisitive journalism by a dapper enthusiastic young primate enthuisast …

https://nopalmoil.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/palm-oil-free-attempt/

So in other words, the main online mention of whether Sainsbury’s bagels have palm oil in, is me mentioning Sainsburys, palm oil and bagels in the same post a few months ago. It staggers me that there’s just no way of knowing!

Today was fine – I still had some eggs and cheese left, and was working from home, so I put the bagels back in the freezer and made another omelette. And if I’m honest, going palm oil free for Lent isn’t *too* difficult if you can avoid processed foods and cook something fresh twice a day every day.

But I can’t do that. Tomorrow (Friday) I am at work for lunch and am a guest of my parents for the evening. In the situations that a busy working single man finds himself, being selective in avoiding palm oil won’t be easy. As you’ll find out between now and Easter …

Weary at the end of the day I scuttled off for a takeaway. I know it’s bad on so many other levels, but I do know that KFC don’t use palm oil (though to be safe I didn’t go for an option with a bread roll). Tired, after an evening of two hours driving through the snow, more hours working on a degree assignment, and a bit of blogging, I turned for a sachet of hot chocolate at the end of the evening.

It’s Cadbury’s, it contains “vegetable fat”. We all know what that probably means. If it weren’t for this campaign I probably wouldn’t have even thought to look 😛

I’ll go without …

Feb
17

And so the challenge started today – Ash Wednesday, day 1 of Lent.

Cereal – switched to Weetabix, check.

Cereal bars in morning – a no-go, switched to yoghurt, check.

Tea tonight – leftover pasta, Dolmio sauce and tuna. No garlic bread tonight though … check.

But what about lunch, and my sandwiches? Yesterday’s photo had a fresh white bloomer from Co-op which I intended to have for my lunch yesterday and today … but closer inspection of the label revealed palm oil

palm oil label

I love Co-op and Sainsbury’s, as they are much more likely to admit to Palm Oil when it’s there, and not just disguise it as “vegetable fat”. However, though I know the likes of Hovis and Warburton when they produce processed sliced bread use palm oil, I’m hoping that bakery-bought bread shouldn’t have palm oil included.

However this bread must have been produced off-site and while having the appearance of fresh bakery bread, still has palm oil contained within, so it has to go. At least the local birds are going to be happy today.

So today I cooked an omelette for lunch. Safe from palm oil, but no answer yet to the bread dilemma …

Feb
16

Last year I wrote a lot about individual products and palm oil content. I learnt a lot and have been able to get a good understanding of the products and brands that contain, or are most likely to contain, palm oil.

But can I avoid it completely? The blog initially set out to do just that. Today is Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent. Some people give up chocolate, some alcohol, some coffee … I rather like all three of those things. I am going to do my utmost to give up palm oil.

It won’t be easy. To be honest, with so many products containing it and so much uncertainty over exact ingredients, I don’t think it will even be possible. But follow me and see the issues and difficulties faced on the way. I buy my own groceries but don’t usually have the time or skill to cook from fresh ingredients the whole time, so like most average people I’m going to come into contact with many palm oil products all the time. In addition, I’ll face restaurant and canteen food as well.

I am not including cosmetics in this. I guess it’s quite possible that my shampoos, shower gels and other cosmetics contain palm oil too. That’s another area to work on. But I’m focusing purely on food and drink.

So today I scanned the cupboards for things which have, or probably have palm oil in them

palm oil

I’ve finished the garlic bread and chocolate buttons for my tea, and the rest will need to be consigned to the bin unfortunately. The ban starts tomorrow.

Finally thank you all for your support and comments on the blog while I have been quiet over the months. More detailed and better sites are out there now and I know some great campaigns are out there. People are writing letters and should be proud of the response and pressure we are putting on organisations. I’ll be sure to include and credit many of these issues over the next 40 days.

Nov
12

Apologies for the lack of updates on this blog recently. In the time I’ve been idle there are so many articles about palm oil and its impact on orangutan habitat in the media recently. The most recent Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil has happened in Kuala Lumpur, and many other supporters and bloggers are also doing great work promoting palm oil boycotts and the pros and cons of different multinational companies and their attitude towards the palm oil that they use. I’ve also continued to have much positive encouragement and support about my site and I’m glad it is pointing people in the right direction to make their own decisions. Thank you everyone!

Today I have one simple message which goes to the root cause of why I have this blog set up anyway. Today is Orange for Orangutans day. OK it may not be the most famous or well-known of such causes out there, but why not join in? I have a bright orange jumper (and a bright orange pair of Converses on too) and it may not be to everyone’s taste but it is turning heads. And if people ask you why you are wearing orange or comment on your natty new outfit, tell them why!

Much of what I do, and the support I have, is “preaching to the converted” – ecologically minded people or lovers of great apes who are aware of the palm oil issue and visit or promote my blog so that it gets a wider readership. But every so often someone new will find the message, will not have heard of palm oil or understand my reasons for its boycott, and a new person will then become aware and tell their friends and family. Especially if they have to explain why they are wearing their awful orange Christmas jumper!

The future’s bright, the future’s orange!

Oct
21

So most of my blog so far has been about supermarket shopping. But what of food we consume out of the home?

Focusing today on Starbucks – not because it is a huge food retailer, but because it is a huge retailer, and my personal hangout of choice. Love them or hate them, they are everywhere. Those who know me know that I am firmly in the “love them” camp. I worked behind the counter in Vancouver in 1993, when the corporation existed only in two cities in the world, and I have been a fan ever since.

But … it is not easy to get information out of them.

When I started this blog I e-mailed requesting information on ingredients in all their bakery products. Having had no reply, or even an acknowledgement, ten days or so I e-mailed them again. Once again, no answer. Starbucks offer a lot of bakery products: cakes, muffins, biscotti, sandwiches, granola bars and many more. But it strikes me that many of these are candidates for palm oil …

Now it seems to me that companies don’t enjoy being contacted by the likes of me and fellow campaigners who are pestering them for ingredient information for their own personal agenda, whatever that might be. But nevertheless most companies have their answers, even if they are little more than stock answers, which attempt to justify their ingredients, and offer their green or ethical stance (or spin, call it what you will).

So Starbucks, some answers please! I love your muffins, but I love Magog Muffins too, and they are palm oil free! Starbucks are long on words, but slow on action, being very slow to move into the Fairtrade coffee market, although we are finally starting to see that in the UK stores now. But Starbucks, you have had a lot of my custom over the years, please repay my loyalty with some answers!

 

Oct
11

Pizza is one of the things I’ve had trouble with – previous posts have mentioned that I have yet to find any pizzas, fresh or frozen, in my Sainsbury’s supermarket, guaranteed to have no palm oil.

It seems the solution has been there under my nose – Pizza Express pizzas! I hadn’t looked at them until now due to the fact they cost so much more, but a price offer has drawn them to my attention, and it seems the only oil included in the ingredients is rapeseed oil.

I say this with caution – I don’t make this claim on ingredients for all products throughout the range, or whether other branded products such as breads and salad dressings are palm oil free or not. Further checks suggest that the pizza range and the dressing range are palm oil free, but the breads (for example the garlic dip supplied with dough balls) are not.

But I can say with confidence that the “Sloppy Giuseppe” pizzas are palm oil free. So, for this week, that is still good news for me, and will do just fine. Neglecting any brand or company that has palm oil use elsewhere in its range is a far harder challenge and I salute any of my followers who are doing just that.

There may be a bit more of a dent in my weekly shopping bill from now, but a switch to Pizza Express pizzas is one more palm oil offender removed …

Oct
04

So after my last post about margarine …

The penny dropped that there was a better potentially palm oil free alternative to spread on my bread or bagels, which stupidly never occured to me before.

Butter!

I’m not going to go over the health benefits of butter versus margarine, this blog isn’t about that. Suffice it to say that since switching to margarine years ago I’d kind of forgotten that butter existed. But I checked out Lurpak Spreadable. There is a reduced fat version (good) and it’s, er, spreadable (good). Two things that usually draw me to margarine.

A look on the Lurpak website doesn’t give a full ingredient list, but it identifies the vegetable oil which helps spread the butter as rapeseed oil. A further back-up check, the trusty Sainsbury’s own brand copy, since Sainsbury’s can at least be relied upon to call palm oil palm oil. And again, no palm oil in the ingredients.

It’s not a vegetarian solution (but I’m not a vegetarian) and it may or may not fit in with losing weight and running half marathons! But I’ve moved from margarine to Lurpak spreadable butter this week, and in doing so cut out a further source of palm oil. And in true BBC fashion, other spreadable and non-spreadable butters are freely available.

Sep
27

Another week’s shopping done and the same problems of choice, but this time a new and difficult one: margarine. Now I know that margarine is just fat, so, manufacturers, please don’t tell me in the ingredients it just contains vegetable oils/fats …

Let’s look at the main sellers in the UK

Bertolli (the olive oil based one)
I can’t believe it’s not butter (the one that’s supposed to be like butter)
Flora (the sunflower one)

It turns out all three are Unilever – the world’s biggest palm oil user. Back home now, I can’t remember the ingredients mentioned on each of these three margarines. None mentioned palm oil, but all mentioned vegetable oils/fats.

Look at the Sainsbury’s alternatives. The branding suggests that they are a definite copy of the three above brands, as the shape, size, colouring and text are all pretty big giveaways.

Sainsbury’s, at least, is honest – all three of them had palm oil within their first three ingredients, whether the main ingredient was rapeseed oil, olive oil or sunflower oil. I can’t believe Unilever doesn’t use exactly the same ingredients. The difference is, they are being sneaky and non-committal about it.

Another campaigner, Darcy Finnegan, has an excellent website here – she has had some great success with some corporations giving answers, whether satisfactory or not, to some difficult questions and acknowledging the environmental and ethical issues. Unilever have been noticeably silent.

So what was my choice – supermarket spread which has palm oil, or Unilever spread which almost certainly has palm oil? Hobson’s choice … I picked one and suppressed it from my conscience.

So this post raises two issues – number one: Unilever, please label your products and be more honest. If you are publicly announcing that you are trying to support the RSPO, and not denying your use of palm oil, then please at least label those products that use it. And two, is there any widely available spreadable butter or margarine that doesn’t contain palm oil?