UK frozen food retailer Iceland will stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own-label food by the end of 2018 as it responds to concerns of deforestation in Southeast Asia.
The supermarket said that the project is already underway, with palm oil successfully removed from 50% of its own-label range; 130 products will have been reformulated by the end of the year. Iceland claimed that the move will reduce demand for palm oil by “more than 500 tonnes per year”.
So far this year, Iceland has brought out 100 new lines without palm oil, and by the start of 2019 will have launched over 200 new lines without the oil.
Iceland said that growing demand for palm oil for use in food products, cosmetics and biodiesel is “devastating” tropical rainforests across Southeast Asia. It drew attention to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia which has caused animal species to be threatened.
In a statement, Iceland said it made the decision to remove palm oil “to demonstrate to the food industry that it is possible to reduce the demand for palm oil whilst seeking solutions that do not destroy the world’s rainforest”.
Alternatives used in products will include sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and butter, with Iceland investing £5 million to shift away from palm oil.
Iceland claimed that the move will reduce demand for palm oil by more than 500 tonnes per year
Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: “Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’. We don’t believe there is such a thing as guaranteed sustainable palm oil available in the mass market, so we are giving consumers a choice to say no to palm for the first time.
“Having recently been to Indonesia and seen the environmental devastation caused by expanding palm oil production first hand, I feel passionately about the importance of raising awareness of this issue – and I know many British consumers share my concern and want to have a real choice about what they buy.
“This journey has shown me that, currently, no major supermarket or food manufacturer can substantiate any claim that the palm oil they use is truly sustainable, as the damage being caused to the global environment and communities in Southeast Asia is just too extensive.”
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven added: “Iceland has concluded that removing palm oil is the only way it can offer its customers a guarantee that its products do not contain palm oil from forest destruction. This decision is a direct response to the palm oil industry’s failure to clean up its act.
“As global temperatures rise from burning forests, and populations of endangered species continue to dwindle, companies using agricultural commodities like palm oil will come under increasing pressure to clean up their supply chains. Many of the biggest consumer companies in the world have promised to end their role in deforestation by 2020. Time is running out not just for these household brands but for the wildlife, the climate and everyone who depends on healthy forests for their survival.”
The announcement is the latest environmental pledge by Iceland after it announced a decision to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-brand products by the end of 2023 earlier this year.
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