A Catholic eco-theologian has praised British supermarket chain Iceland after it pledged to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in its own brand food by the end of 2018, warning that it drives the destruction of rainforests.
The company said it is taking the product out of 130 food lines, which will reduce demand by more than 500 tonnes per year. Palm oil is already replaced with alternatives such as sunflower oil in half of them.
Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, welcomed the move and noted that society is grateful to companies like Iceland for reducing food damage while improving quality and availability for caring consumers.
“Iceland’s elimination of palm oil is admirable as its current use is devastating rainforests,” Dr Echlin told The Universe.
“According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production.
“They say this large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next five to 10 years, and Sumatran tigers in less than three years,” he warned.
Growing demand for palm oil for use in food, toiletries and biofuel has helped fuel widespread deforestation in south-east Asia, prompting industry efforts to promote “sustainable” palm oil which is not environmentally damaging.
But Iceland managing director Richard Walker said the company did not believe there was verifiably sustainable palm oil on the mass market and so was removing it all together.
Read more on this story in this week’s Universe.
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Picture: Iceland store in Cheadle village. (Nick Benson).