13 Oct 2014

From 13th December 2014 it will be easier for us to search for palm oil in food products as a new EU labelling law comes into play. This means that all food product labels will have to clearly state in the ingredients list which vegetable oil has been used in its production.

Not sure what palm oil is or how it’s affecting orangutans in the wild? Find out all you need to know below…

orangutan hutan
Credit: HUTAN- Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil which comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree and is used in a wide range of products including cake, chocolate, biscuits, margarine, soap, shampoo, lipstick and cleaning products.

What’s the problem?

The demand for palm oil has driven rapid and unregulated expansion of oil palm plantations in developing countries.  This often involves cutting down native forests, releasing greenhouse gases, polluting rivers and having a huge negative impact on orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and many other species.

Forest fire Borneo
Credit: HUTAN- Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project

Am I buying palm, oil?

Almost certainly.  Palm oil is found in approximately half of the food in our supermarkets but is often labelled simply as vegetable oil.  This will change in 2015 when food products containing palm oil will have to be clearly labelled in order to be sold in the European Union.

oil palm plantation
Oil palm plantation in Borneo

Should we ban palm oil?

No. If we were to stop using palm oil then we would need to find an alternative to supply the global demand for edible vegetable oil. Oil palm is the most productive oilseed crop, producing twice as much oil as coconuts and over thirty times as much oil as maize.  Because of this, getting our vegetable oil from a different crop would mean converting even more land to agriculture.

oil palm most productive oil seed graph
Oil palm is the most productive oilseed crop

What is Chester Zoo doing?

At Chester Zoo we believe boycotting palm oil is NOT the answer. A better choice is sustainable palm oil.

We support the work of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and those companies who choose to source Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) from it.  We believe that sourcing CSPO through the RSPO is the responsible choice and will drive demand for sustainable production.  We have committed to eradicating the use and sale of unsustainable palm oil at Chester Zoo and are currently carrying out a systematic audit of all palm oil in our supply chain.

rspo logo

What can I do?

When you do your weekly shop, have a look at the labels before you add products to your basket. Try to buy products which feature the RSPO logo. Many supermarkets are also labelling their own brand products with their own sustainable palm oil logos so keep an eye out for these too!

made with sustainable palm oil

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