It is fantastic to see that Iceland has announced that palm oil will be banned from all their own brand products by the end of the year. Having witnessed first-hand the devastating impact the palm oil industry has on wildlife and the environment, this is an extremely positive and welcome step.
The supermarket’s pledge only applies to own-brand products, meaning other goods sold may still contain palm oil. But as palm oil can be found in over half of Iceland’s products (including biscuits and soap) it’s certainly a commendable effort and one which I hope other retailers will follow.
Iceland is the first major UK chain stepping up and investigating sustainable alternatives to palm oil but there needs to be a growing number of supermarkets and retailers making similar moves if we are to see a seismic shift towards reducing its use.
Fuelling factory farming
Over the last twenty years, deforestation has been driven chiefly by the expansion of palm oil plantations. The demand for palm oil in consumer products, and its negative impacts on the environment, is now relatively well-known.
What is less well known is that palm products are being widely used to feed factory farmed animals. The oil is derived from the reddish pulp of the fruit, but there’s more to palm than the oil. Dig deeper into the fruit and you come across the edible seed or kernel. The industry renders these nuts down into kernel oil and palm kernel meal, or ‘cake’. This palm kernel meal is then transported as a protein source to the feed troughs of industrially reared animals all over the world.
A domino effect
It’s not just reducing palm oil: Iceland has also pledged, along with other UK retailers, to go cage free on eggs by 2025. This commitment to phase out cages in favour of more humane, free-range and barn systems is hugely positive for laying hens. I hope that a similar domino effect will occur in the case of palm oil reduction commitments by the big chain supermarkets and retailers.
I congratulate Iceland for taking such a strong stand against palm oil and hope that the retail giant may choose to engage with my team at Compassion in World Farming in the future to further improve animal welfare in their supply chain. It would be fantastic to see the frozen food specialist continue to make meaningful steps towards a sustainability and animal welfare commitments – helping to drive change and influence other retailers.