Monday, December 22, 2014

End product news & views (update 3a): A junk food free world? Italy campaign against palm oil in food products.

22 December: A junk food free world? Italy campaign against palm oil in food products.

Hold the Cookies, Save the Climate - Everyone knows meat is bad for the environment. But so is an ingredient commonly found in junk food. By Ruth DeFries; Imagine if eating packaged cookies and crackers were as socially unacceptable as smoking a cigarette. People would sneak to the balcony to tear open packages of Oreos. Travelers would slink into designated rooms to scarf down candy bars. “No junk food” signs would adorn the halls of public buildings. Waistlines, nutrition, and health care costs would all by improved by a junk food–free world. So would the climate, the rain forests, and the dwindling populations of wild orangutans in Southeast Asia...... The protests against palm oil have raised awareness about the damage that may be wrought by the world’s voracious appetite for cheap fat. They also bring up many thorny questions about the right path to a more equitable world, that has economic opportunities for all, and won’t destroy the planet in the process. Do the environmental costs of palm oil from Southeast Asia outweigh the damage from industrial farming of soybeans in the prairies of the Midwest? Should those countries with remaining stocks of rich, lush rain forests be obliged to forgo the benefits of developing their agriculture? With the push toward certification of sustainably produced palm oil, how can the millions of poor oil palm farmers afford to go through the expensive process to get certified? These knotty questions have no obvious answers. But one fact is clear. Whether it’s squeezed from soybeans or from the fruits of palm trees, oil in processed food is a losing proposition.... proposition

A Comedian vs 14,000 Italian Jobs & 4 Million Small Farmers b IPPA, 15 December 2014
The latest anti-palm oil campaign (and anti-poor people) campaign to emerge from Fortress Europe has come from Beppe Grillo and his Movimento 5 Stelle, also known as M5S, an Italian political party (party in the literal sense, not political sense). M5S is calling for the outright banning of palm oil from food products in Italy.... People’s livelihoods are at stake....

15 December: ‘Free-from’ campaigns are illegal or deceptive and also unnecessary as of 13 December 2014

In Trade Perspectives by FratiniVergano - European Lawyers, Issue No. 23 of 12 December 2014 on Mandatory declaration of specific vegetable oils in food as of 13 December 2014: ..... By making it compulsory that the oil origin be specified (so that a consumer can make an informed choice in the selection of food products), a mere look at the list of ingredients will tell consumers whether a product contains a specific vegetable oil or not. ‘Free-from’ campaigns directly on the products packaging should, therefore, be seen not only as illegal or deceptive (as argued above), but also unnecessary as of 13 December 2014, since any consumer will be able to tell what vegetable oil is present or not in any food product. There will be no need to use these dubious ‘free-from’ campaigns in order to ‘help’ consumers make informed choices. Food producers remain entitled to make positive claims about the presence of specific products on in their products, if they believe that such label has marketing value and will be appealing to consumers, but negative labels must be better regulated and not allowed, unless they are permitted nutrition claims under the NHCR.... The growing use of these damaging negative labels in countries like France and Belgium must be brought to an end.  Authorities and commercial operators need to closely scrutinise the market and challenge these anti-competitive practices, when they contravene EU and Member States’ laws. The expectation is that EU authorities and EU Member States, while they impose costly new rules on producers, also ensure that consumers are not misled by astute marketing techniques that have no informative agenda, but simply aim at denigrating certain vegetable oils in order to promote others or to convince consumers that what is ‘free’ from a certain oil is a better product....

12 December 2014 evening: EU labelling campaign wanted to encourage sustainability, but a poll of Guardian readers points to many wanting to avoid palm oil?

EU labelling changes force industry action on palm oil, a new law is predicted to benefit the sustainable palm oil industry, but the question is whether consumers will care; From Saturday, 500 million consumers in Europe will become aware that palm oil is in their food. The EU law on food information to consumers (otherwise known as FIC) means that food stuffs can no longer get away with hiding ingredients under generic titles. Now ingredients will have to be exactly what it says on the tin, and sustainable palm oil could be a major beneficiary.... The palm oil debate is funded by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

Will new EU food labelling rules change your purchasing decisions on palm oil?
Poll: will seeing palm oil in a product's ingredients list change your decision to buy it?
by Jenny Purt, Friday 12 December 2014 12.41 GMT; comment: Michelle Desilets 12 December 2014 1:03pm: The motivation for the campaign to clearly label the kind of oil used in products had a great deal to do with encouraging manufacturers to ensure that the palm oil they use is sustainably sourced. Perhaps the poll could have been improved with an option of something along the lines of "I will seek products that use palm oil and are certified sustainable."

source: Guardian poll, 12 Dec 2014, 11pm Singapore time; but number of respondents not indicated

12 December 2014: health & sustainability link, reformulate petition, Iran reduces palm oil, "palm oil free" illegal?

Palm oil: Health and sustainability are linked in consumers' minds by  - ‎Dec 4, 2014‎; "Palm oil is subject to several consumer concerns - its sustainability and health impacts in particular - but these need to be addressed together rather than separately, according to the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA)...."

Petition to limit palm oil attracts more than 50000 signatures;  - ‎Dec 2, 2014‎  The petition, published on , says it opposes the use of palm oil on ethical, environmental and health grounds, and invites companies to reformulate using other non-hydrogenated vegetable oils or butter.

Iran decreases palm oil imports due to health concerns by  - ‎Dec 9, 2014‎; "Iran has decreased the importation of palm oil due to health concerns, ISNA news agency reported on Dec. 9. The country imported 7.415 million metric tons of palm oil in the first eight months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-November 21 ..."

'Palm oil free' products could face legal challenge, say lawyers by  - ‎Dec 3, 2014‎ 
“However, in the absence of evidence that a specific oil represents a risk to consumer health, inclusion of “no palm oil” claim front of label unjustly singles palm oil out and places emphasis on the absence of palm oil in the product in a manner that ..."

Nash: Belgium's label against palm oil illegal by Yahoo Malaysia News  - ‎Dec 3, 2014‎ 
“We acknowledge this FIC regulation, but we reject the 'No Palm Oil' defamatory connotation in front-of-pack labels,” said Zulkifli..."

10 December: EU FIC regulation boost sustainability but not mass reformulation

"Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation is due to come into force across the EU on December 13, and with its requirement to identify specific vegetable oils on ingredient lists.... The palm oil industry had feared that the rules would lead to mass reformulation, as manufacturers responded to perceived consumer concerns about palm oil's sustainability and health effects. However this has not happened, the EPOA (European Palm Oil Alliance) says..."There has sure been a stagnation of palm oil use over the past three or four years, but it's not been the big drop that some had feared" (EPOA's Margaret Logman) said..... (FEDOIL's Nathalie Lecocq) pointed out that oils have a specific function that can't always be replicated. "It would be a mistake to think we need to get rid of one oil because it is imported," she said.... some palm oil producers have also said that the FIC regulations have spurred manufacturers to source more sustainable palm oil...."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

RSPO Roundtable (RT12) 2014 (update 6): WWF welcomes RSPO move to expel and suspend members over annual reporting

RSPO hosted its 12th Roundtable annual meeting, marking 10 years since its creation as a Swiss entity. The RSPO sponsors in The Guardian of the UK -  "The palm oil debate is funded by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labeled advertisement feature..."  (see links below). On the agenda were numerous topics. - listed here:

10 December 2014:

Thanks to a reader for pointing this out. RSPO has faced some issues in getting all its members to report on their annual data and progress. Some also ask about incomplete reporting.

Palm oil sustainability body to expel non-compliant companies, Posted on 21 November 2014  |    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:  "WWF has welcomed a move by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to expel member companies that have failed to keep even their most basic promises to the sustainability body.... At the organizations’ 12th annual meeting, the Chair of the RSPO Board announced that member companies who have ignored annual reporting requirements for the last three years will be expelled within six weeks and those failing to report over two years will be suspended.  Member companies are required to report annually on progress towards time bound plans to reach sustainability milestones.... This is a sign that the RSPO has finally lost its patience with those members who have been bringing the organization into disrepute by failing to make commitments, never mind keep them,” said Adam Harrison, WWF’s lead on its work on palm oil....

26 November 2014: what was missing from RSPO RT12 - post-event notes

Thank you to readers for pointing these out....

The Big Question: Will RSPO Officially Condemn 'No Palm Oil' Labels at RT12? 18 November, 2014;

Stop ‘no palm oil’ labelling; Updated: Sunday November 23, 2014 MYT 8:15:44 PM
 have not seen enough support for Malaysian small farmers from the Sustainable Alliances, especially in regard to the “No Palm Oil” labels. Whilst denigrating palm oil with these labels, the companies that use them such as Galler and Delhaize are risking the trade relationship between Belgium and Malaysia. They could also harm the image of Belgium in Malaysia. In my opinion, Belgians must respect Malaysian products if they want to preserve a good trading relationship at a time when we all need it. It is now a question of how Malaysia will choose to defend their small farmers against these attacks...."

NGO reactions to RSPO RT12:
20 November 2014: The General Assembly is always the exciting part after the RSPO Roundtable and this proved to be so to the end. The resolution to promote traceability within certification was a fascinating shift with possible deep impact on preferences and balances. Keep an eye on this!

Note: traceable GreenPalm, a winner?

UNEP-RSPO collaboration in the news:

Great apes facing 'direct threat' from palm oil farming; Updated: Thursday November 20, 2014 MYT 6:21:27 PM; "KUALA LUMPUR: The destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa to make way for palm oil cultivation is a "direct threat" to the survival of great apes such as the orangutan, environmentalists warned Thursday.... They said tropical forests were continuing to tumble at a rapid rate, with palm plantations a key driver, despite a decade-old drive by the industry's Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to encourage sustainable cultivation.... The concerns were voiced on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the RSPO, held this year in Malaysia and which concluded Thursday.... "Orangutan and ape habitats are being destroyed," said Doug Cress, Kenya-based programme coordinator with the UN Environment Programme's great ape protection campaign.
........The problem is most acute in leading palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia, which account for 85 percent of world production, conference participants said. But it is now also a looming threat in even more poorly regulated Africa, where the industry is set to "explode", according to Cress.... Harrison cited as an example Tesso-Nilo National Park in Indonesia, which was set aside as a preserve for tiger and elephant habitats. "Half of the national park was cleared for palm oil by small-holders. The small-holders then sold the fruits to RSPO members. This is unacceptable," he said.
Harrison said if deforestation continued at current rates, tiger and elephant populations in Southeast Asia could be wiped out within in a decade. -AFP..."

19 November 2014: the smallholder inclusivity problem, more on UNEP deal, Unilever pledge, Cargill status
Good chat with rep from Better Cotton Initiative (cousin of RSPO in the WWF Roundtables stable). This Roundtable was explicitly designed to be highly inclusive of smallholders; the converse of RSPO as many specialists note its big corporation focus (about half percent of RSPO certified output is from smallholders). In four years BCI has a 4 percent global production market share and target 33 percent by 2020. It is not designed to generate a premium but large buyers pay a volume based fee to support ancillary services to support cotton farmers yield improvement and cost efficiency. The agriculture outreach was initially funded by donors. BCI looks to adapt its standard for corporate cotton farms.
RSPO reports $4 million funds to develop smallholder certification. Many NGOs are looking to assist on this. Smallholders represent at mid-2014 some 0.6 percent (with just over 14,100 hectares) of the total RSPO certified area. RSPO is in its tenth year of operation. Keep an eye on this!

News links:

Sustainable palm oil enters the UN environmental agenda by Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur | Business | Wed, November 19 2014, 12:16 PM; "The development program for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable palm oil is poised to accelerate following the signing of a cooperation agreement between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)... UNEP senior executive Douglas Cress noted on Wednesday that cooperation should be a model for the sustainable development of other farm commodities, as the RSPO engaged all representatives from the whole spectrum of the palm oil supply-chain.... He added that the UNEP-RSPO engagement aimed to raise global awareness about sustainable palm oil and generate market demand for an important commodity that has the potential to play a key role in preserving the earth’s biodiversity...."

Unilever to Use Only Sustainable Palm Oil in European Foods by End of Year
Company Pledges to Use Only Traceable, Sustainable Palm Oil World-Wide by 2020

Cargill Publishes First Palm Oil Progress; Cargill today released its first progress report on sustainable palm oil. The report lays out the company’s action plan to achieve a fully sustainable supply chain. "Sustainability has long been part of our palm ...

18 November 2014: Food labeling context, UNEP deal and RSPO RT12 in the news
RT12 to look at preparing for sustainability and what comes next by Bernama. Posted on November 10, 2014, Monday; KUALA LUMPUR: "The 12th Roundtable Meeting on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT12), organised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), will look at trends pointing towards the evolutionary path of sustainability and how to prepare for it... The annual meeting, set to take centre stage here on November 17 to 20, was previously held in Medan, Indonesia.... RSPO Secretary General, Darrel Webber, said the RT12, themed ‘Sustainability: What’s Next?’, would discuss current challenges faced by members and stakeholders such as multiplicity of standards and constant change in demand from the market.... “This year’s meeting will consist of four types of formats – small intense group sessions, plenary sessions, panel discussions as well as a more interactive session called World Cafe, where we go around the table and ask questions... The highlight of this year’s event is a keynote address and panel discussion led by award-winning scientist, environmentalist and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, Dr David Suzuki...RSPO now have over 1,791 members from from 72 countries including Germany, UK, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Indonesia. — Bernama..."
UN to promote RSPO-certified palm oil as conservation solution November 14, 2014; "The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has signed an agreement with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to promote eco-certified palm oil as part of the broader effort to conserve biodiversity.... The move, announced Thursday, commits UNEP and RSPO to work together to uphold standards for certified palm oil and encourage uptake in global markets. UNEP says RSPO-certified palm oil could contribute toward UN development goals...."
Borneo's industry-environment balancing act - Deforestation in Indonesia has led some to demand tighter standards for the multi-billion-dollar industry. Kate Mayberry  Last updated: 17 Nov 2014 06:30; "Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The island of Borneo is on the front line of an ongoing struggle to find a balance between the environment and commerce.... At one time, Sanchez was hopeful that the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) would succeed in its goal to make plantation companies more responsible and slow the pace of deforestation. But orang-utans continue to be driven from their treetop homes.... Still, some industry insiders argue RSPO is dominated by Western NGOs and big buyers, and its stricter benchmarks are too demanding and expensive for smaller producers to implement... The RSPO's not just about a standard," Webber said. "We are about transparency. We add credibility. We are an avenue to seek recourse. We have global maps of our certified members that you can see online now, check where they are, whether they've deforested in the past.... "We do terminate and we do suspend," he said. "But we try our best to mediate. Conflicts do not stop if we terminate a member. Conflicts will stop if a member operates within our framework and starts engaging with affected parties..... No other commodity, I think, has done the same. It's only palm oil that's done it and it's palm oil through the RSPO that's done it," he added...."
Campaign for sustainable palm oil becomes more vigorous by Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur | Business | Tue, November 18 2014, 10:50 AM; "Some 800 delegates from 30 countries began a three-day meeting here on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the campaign for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable palm oil... The discussions within the 12th annual conference of The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are taking place against the backdrop of some positive developments as industries in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium have all pledged to buy 100 percent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015.... This pledge will coincide with Europe leading up to the entry into force of the new food labelling regulation at the end of this year, when palm and other vegetable oils will appear on product packs, RSPO Secretary General Darrel Webber noted.... The principles of sustainable management promoted and assessed under the schemes of RSPO, ISPO (Indonesia) and MSPO (Malaysia) for their respective certification are by and large similar: covering such elements as transparency, legal and regulatory compliance, best production practices, environmental responsibility and commitments to local community development, human rights, land rights etc....  Webber said efforts are now underway to develop synergy between the certification programs because their primary goal is the same: to develop palm oil as a major source of vegetable oil in socially, economically and environmentally sustainabe practices..."
12 November 2014: RSPO sponsored palm oil debate in The Guardian:
From rainforest to your cupboard: the real story of palm oil - interactive by Laura Paddison, Jenny Purt, Josephine Moulds, Oliver Balch and Yosef Riadi and Ulet Ifansasti in Riau province, Indonesia
Monday 10 November 2014 13.00 GMT; "You wash with it, you brush with it, you toast it, it’s in 50% of what you buy – but what’s the real story of palm oil? Use the interactive below to trace the journey of palm oil from the rainforest through to your kitchen cupboard... Does the story of palm oil affect your buying habits?... Put your palm oil questions to a panel of experts in our online live chat.. Produced for the Guardian by Nice & Serious..."
Palm oil: the secret in your shopping basket - have your say; "Implicated in deforestation, the destruction of natural habitats and climate change, the ubiquitous oil is in 50% of what many buy - from shampoo and lipstick to bread and margarine - but do consumers care?... But where does this deeply controversial yet hidden ingredient come from? Our interactive tracks the journey of palm oil from the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and increasingly Latin America and Africa, to your kitchen cupboard.... It explores the complicated story of a commodity which has undeniably negative effects. Millions of hectares of virgin rainforest have been cleared in some of the world’s most biodiverse countries to make way for palm oil plantations. In the process people have been displaced, livelihoods undermined, endangered animals such as orangutans have lost their natural habitat and sometimes their lives, and the draining of peatland has released millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere exacerbating climate change...."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Obesity and the food industry (update 1a): "The men who made us fat" - UK documentary

So what really causes us to be fat? Has the food industry led us into addiction?

7 December 2014: The Truth about Fat in Time

The Truth About Fat by Michael Lester @moikl, June 12, 2014; "When you want to lose weight or get healthy, what is the first thing you would normally cut from your diet? If you said fat, you’re not alone.... For years, the advice from the USDA has been to reduce the level of saturated fat in your diet, in order to lower your overall cholesterol. However, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has thrown that whole approach in to question.... The removal of fats from our diet has led to an increase in consumption of carbohydrates and processed low-fat alternatives, which has contributed to record levels of diabetes and obesity.... When you consider that most low-fat or non-fat products are laden with salts, sugars and preservatives, continuing to seek out fat-free alternatives could be doing you more harm than good...."

7 December 2014: "The men who made us fat" - UK documentary

At a dinner party last night, this documentary was pointed out to me. Another guest noted that she had concluded from reading: 80% of being overweight is due to what we eat and 20% to exercise. Have we been mistakenly led by the food-exercise industry into upping our consumption of highly processed foods, supplements and exercise products? Is it just all about calorie control and getting back to basic food (and less sugar and carbohydrates)?

UK made documentary. The documentary maker says: On the obesity disease. Those responsible for a revolution in our eating habits. Decisions made behind closed doors changed food into an addiction. How business changed the shape of the nation. How the food industry choreographs temptation. Those who turned eating food into an epidemic....  Introduction of dietary guidelines: food industry willing to concede on fat, not sugar. Invention of low fat food, sold as better for you. Turning the attack as a business opportunity. Fat was replaced with sugar. Low fat doesn't mean it's not fattening. Snackwells was a marketing triumph.....The increase in portion size...Overconsumption is killing us...  ; BBC Two - The Men Who Made Us Fat -; youtube vids here:

Rewind TV: The Men Who Made Us Fat; Britain in a Day; Dead Boss by Phil Hogan, Sunday 17 June 2012 00.05 BST; "Jacques Peretti asked why we have become the size of Fiat Puntos....
Watching Jacques Peretti's interesting The Men Who Made Us Fat, it struck me that filming a documentary about obesity in Britain must be much easier than 40 years ago, when being huge was a rarer novelty than having a wooden leg. Today, with a quarter of the population officially the size of a Fiat Punto, it seems all you have to do is put a camera in the high street and wait for someone – perhaps a grazing couple – to heave into view. But this wasn't about finger-pointing. Under an MRI scanner, it turned out that even Peretti himself – a man of no outlandish width – was carrying four to five litres of internal lard. His kidneys, the doctor said, were "swimming" in it. "Is that normal?" Peretti asked, hopefully. It wasn't. It was twice that of a normal fit person (if a fit person can still be described as normal). It seemed that Peretti is what scientists call a Tofi – thin on the outside, fat on the inside. Was no one safe?.... Historically, Britain's problem (we have put on three stone since the 60s) is down to our genetic heritage as hunter-gatherers. We can't help it. We are cavemen with supermarket loyalty cards. In more recent times, though, it has been possible to blame the Americans (ahead of the game in so many ways) for introducing industrial-scale farming in the 70s. Flooding itself with cheap food seemed a good idea at the time and produced the added bonus (or, as we now see it, unintended consequence) of vast surpluses of corn, which in turn led to the miracle food of high-fructose corn syrup.... It was what the American sweet tooth had been aching for. A third cheaper than sugar, corn syrup was soon in everything on the national menu, from ketchup to burger buns to processed meats to pizza toppings. But most of all it was in fizzy drinks, today the single biggest source of calories in the US. In movie theatres and sports arenas, "cups" grew to the point where it is now thought perfectly unremarkable to stagger to your seat with the equivalent of a window-cleaner's bucket. How did everyone get so thirsty? The answer was that corn syrup was not only cheaper than sugar, it was also sweeter. And food manufacturers give generously..... Other opinions were available, with grinning spokespeople from the food companies telling us that having sugar in everything was a healthy part of a balanced diet, which I believe is what they used to say about cigarettes. As much as anything, this film (the first of three) was the story of corporate chicanery, political surrender and cowed scientists whupped into silence. When New York mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced plans to restrict sales of supersize beverages, it may have looked as if he'd just woken from a 30-year sleep ("Gosh, where did all these massive people spring from?"). But it highlighted the success of powerful commercial interests down the decades in keeping the lid on the problem with sugar, while diverting concerns over heart disease uncritically towards saturated fats. In the 80s, "healthy" snacks – yoghurts, spreads and biscuits, low in fat but packed with the natural goodness of sugar – were all the rage. It took us a long time to find out why even joggers were getting red in the face for nothing....."