Public awareness of the environmental impact of the massive use of palm oil in food products is steadily increasing. Nevertheless consumer demand for products containing palm oil remains high, and few companies are making significant changes.
However ABC is reporting that a social web media campaign utilising YouTube and initiated by Greenpeace, has led to Nestle changing its sourcing policies in regards to palm oil.
Palm oil, produced from Elaeis guineensis, is used in a huge variety of manufactured food products, sometimes clearly stated in the ingredient list, other times simply stated as “vegetable oil”. Another big use of palm oil is in biodiesel production, and in soap manufacture. Unfortunately huge areas in some South East Asian countries have been deforested to make way for production, and it also seems to be threatening the native habitat of orang-utans.
Aside from the health implications of the widespread consumption of this type of saturated fat, the environmental and conservation issues are frightening. There is also debate about whether benefits of switching to this sort of biofuel is outweighed by the climate and environmental impact of the deforestation process.
Hopefully this change by Nestle will make a positive impact directly, as well as indirectly by making other manufacturers and consumers consider the impact of their choice of ingredients.