I have been captivated by the new SHOWTIME series Years of Living Dangerously, a groundbreaking documentary event series explores the human impact of climate change. (If you haven’t seen it, SHOWTIME is offering a free preview weekend May 9-11.)
I have learned so much from the first few episodes, including the massive impact of conflict palm oil production. In addition to destroying national habitat and wildlife, it is creating drastic carbon emissions and having a disastrous effect on global warming.
With trans fats rightly being removed and banned from many products, the bad news is that Conflict Palm Oil is often used to replace those artery-clogging trans fats.The highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods are unhealthy for the human body, and their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.
The World Health Organization; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils because of their high content of artery-clogging saturated fats.
But beyond the health issue, environmentalists and human rights activists are concerned that the FDA ban on trans fats will lead to a repeat of the mistakes companies made ten years ago when the FDA mandated the labeling of trans fats. That mandate led to a 500% increase in demand for Conflict Palm Oil, which is produced in ways that cause large scale rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.
In fact, palm oil can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. It is added to teething biscuits, baby formula, granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, you name it. When we feed our kids food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are they’re eating palm oil.
Not one of the nation’s top 20 snack food manufacturers can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain Conflict Palm Oil.
Rainforest Action Network’s Conflict Palm Oil campaign aims to pressure the Snack Food 20* group of companies to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products. And it is working. A few months ago, palm oil mega-giant Wilmar International – which controls 45% of the global trade in palm oil – adopted a conflict-free palm oil policy. On Valentine’s day, Kellogg released a strengthened palm oil purchasing commitment, joining industry peers Nestle, Unilever and Ferrero. But we’re still waiting for several other kids’ snack makers to step up to the plate, including Kraft, PepsiCo, Heinz, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Food and Cargill.
Here’s what YOU CAN DO.
1) Keep reading labels. Palm Oil goes by many names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate and Glyceryl Stearate. You’ll be amazed how ubiquitous it is, once you learn to recognize its many names.
2) Read RAN’s Conflict Palm Oil report, which outlines the health, human and environmental impacts of this destructive product and lays out exactly what we are asking shoppers and companies to do to eliminate it.
3) Take action online to tell the Snack Food 20: Don’t replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil.
There are three easy steps for the Global Day of Action May 20:
1. Check out the Day of Action Toolkit and come up with a vision for your photo action.
2. Add the details of your photo action to the event map.
3. Once you get your image, upload it to RAN’s Smug Mug Gallery and post it to Pepsi’s Facebook Wall with this message: #PepsiCo, the power to Cut Conflict Palm Oil is #InYourPalm.
Thanks to the support of people like you, we are making progress and gaining traction. But we’ll need to keep pushing to reach the tipping point. Parents have the power to provide the added momentum we’ll need to remove conflict palm oil from our food supply.
*The “Snack Food 20” group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.