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Iceland to be first major UK supermarket to remove palm oil from own label food

Iceland, the UK’s leading frozen food specialist, has today announced that it will stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own label food by the end of 2018.

The company reported that the project is already well 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.

Already this year, Iceland has brought out 100 new lines without palm oil, including the new summer range, and by the start of 2019 will have launched over 200 new lines that do not contain palm oil.

Palm oil is currently found in 50 %of all supermarket products, from bread to biscuits and breakfast cereal to soap. Despite this, 35% of consumers are unaware of what palm oil is. Once informed about palm oil and its effects on the environment, 85% state that they do not believe palm oil should be used in food products.

Iceland has made this ethical decision to remove palm oil in order 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.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, where expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest driver of deforestation, many species are being threatened with extinction, including the orangutan, already critically endangered. Recently published studies show that Bornean orangutan numbers more than halved between 1999 and 2015, with only 70,000–100,000 individuals remaining.

In Indonesia alone, 146 football pitches of rainforests are lost every hour. Deforestation also results in increased global carbon emissions. In 2014, Indonesia had the fourth largest greenhouse gas emissions, mostly as a result of deforestation.

Richard Walker, Managing Director, commented, “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 South East Asia is just too extensive.”

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, commented, “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.”