Tuesday, 22 December 2009

SC Johnson update

I'm pleased to report that SC Johnson have responded and they have been able to reassure me that the items I wrote to them about do not contain palm oil so I can continue to use Mr Muscle Window and Glass, all the different Pledge furniture polishes and brillo pads.

They go on to state the following:

Corporately, SC Johnson´s direct use of this material is quite limited. Also, SC Johnson is a member of the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to ensure that any Palm Oil the company does use, comes from sustainable sources.

We hope we were able to help and please do not hesitate to contact us for any further query.

This is a good response; so much more helpful than Unilever who are just ignoring me now so I will have to stop using Cif cream lemon cleaner and Domestos Bleach. I already have some Hobrite in the cupboard but I haven't written to the manufacturer, Homecare Products, yet - on my list for the new year. They seem to have quite an ethical stance from their website so I'm hopeful I can just drop Cif altogether and use Hobrite instead. I'll have to look into alternative bleach suppliers - I don't use much and I tend to dilute it most of the time. (Again, it's on the to do list!)

The indicaton from SC Johnson is that they would be happy to give further help and I will look to their ranges first when I come to replacing any household products that contain palm oil.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

No more dumplings? Arghh!

I thought I had got to the stage where everything I eat and drink at home was palm oil free but I have just discovered another foodstuff that I think probably contains palm oil. At this time of year I love to make stews and casseroles. It's particularly useful to make double or triple quantities towards the end of the week so I have a quick meal to reheat when I get home after a cold day of manning my jewellery stall. I never feel like cooking after such a long cold day and whilst I will occasionally resort to a frozen pizza (some of Co-op's own brand are palm oil free). I always prefer to eat non-processed food.

Stew wouldn't be stew without dumplings and I usually use a dumpling mix rather than make my own from fresh (what a contradiction after the last paragraph!) but all the brands I buy contain vegetable oil or vegetable fat. I have only just discovered dumpling mixes and suet contain vegetable fat because the cold weather has been so long arriving, I've only just got out the casserole dishes!

I haven't written to the brand manufacturers to enquire if - as is usually the case - the vegetable oil/fat is palm oil but I am abstaining from dumplings in the meantime until I have chance to write some letters/e-mails.

In the new year, when the big rush for my business has becalmed, I will be researching dumplings quite thoroughly. In the meantime, if anyone knows of palm oil free dumplings, I'd be very grateful!

EDIT: Recipe here that uses butter for dumplings. I will give these a go!

Update on household products, I have the following list of further manufacturers to write to about the household products that I use:

Clorox Car Care Ltd
Darcy Industries Ltd, Bolton
Emma Ltd
Homecare Products Ltd
Mykal Industries
PC Products (1001) Ltd
Proctor & Gamble
Reckit Benckiser
WD-40 Company Ltd

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A little more of a positive response from S C Johnson

S C Johnson have replied to my enquiries about whether the following products in my cleaning cupboard contain palm oil or palm oil derivitives:
  • Mr Muscle Window & Glass
  • Pledge Dust and Protect Wood Classic
  • Pledge Soapy Wood cleaner
  • Pledge Springtime Furniture Polish
  • Pledge with orange oil liquid
(Gosh, I do use alot of Pledge don't I, anyone would think I spend all day long polishing things ...!) Anyway, here's what they said:

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us . It is very difficult to be certain about whether or not some of SC Johnson's ingredients originate from Palm Oil. SC Johnson tries to ensure that its suppliers do not use unsustainable sources of any ingredient, but the details of each specific ingredient are difficult to obtain.

A search has been initiated to try and answer specifically your enquiry, but this could take a couple of weeks to conduct. Once we have found out the answer, we will be in touch again. Thank you again for your email .

I have thanked them and said I look forward to receiving their further reply.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My response to Unilever

Many thanks for your reply, I agree that traceability must be a difficult problem that faces RSPO. However, I am avoiding palm oil all together as I don't believe sustainable palm oil is going to address the problem in sufficient time to save the Orangutans and other wildlife from losing vast tracts of their habitat. I only asked you about two products:

Domestos Bleach
Cif Lemon Cleaning Product

I can't understand why it is so difficult for you to say "Yes, these products contain palm oil (or palm oil derivatives)" or "No, these products do not contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives".

I am not asking for trade secrets here, food manufacturers are only too happy to tell me yes or no. Please can you explain why you cannot be more transparent on this issue?

Household cleaning items

I wrote to a few of the suppliers of the household cleaning items I routinely use at home a couple of days ago. The first response is from Unilever. I only use two of their products:
  1. Cif Lemon Cream Cleaner
  2. Domestos Bleach
Palm Oil is an ingredient which is used in many food products, toiletry and cosmetic products. Due to our broad portfolio and scale of business, Unilever is the world's largest user of palm oil.

Hence we are leading the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, a not-for-profit association set up to ensure that companies will be able to purchase certified sustainable palm oil as soon as possible. The challenge in finding an effective and long term solution is the problem of "traceability" (being able to trace every palm kernel back to the plantation which grew it). This is complex in an extended supply chain where there are many thousands of growers - both large and small.

Unfortunately, due to the brands and number of products that Unilever produces, we are unable to provide the generic ingredient details that you are asking for. We are nevertheless committing to traceability in our European supply chain for straight palm oil by 2012.

I hope this has reassured you about the use of palm oil in our products, and I will pass your comments on to our Product Development team. We welcome all consumer feedback - both positive and negative - as it helps us to improve our products and policies, so thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us.

I understand why traceability is going to be a difficult problem but I can't see why it is so hard for them to provide me with a "yes, we use palm oil in those products" or "no, we don't use palm oil in those products".

Friday, 20 November 2009

Response from Tesco regarding fuel

I have received a response from Tesco about what percentage of their fuel is made up of palm oil. In the same e-mail I also told them I was switching all my on-line shopping to Sainsbury's but they haven't replied about that.

Using this as a base, I can now write to other fuel suppliers to see if they can be any more precise about how much palm oil is in their petrol/diesel. This might be one area that I can't avoid palm oil. I don't drive anywhere myself but I do get a lift to my market stall every Saturday in a diesel car and of course, all the delivery vehicles bringing items to me for my business, my groceries, on-line shopping etc. all use fuel so I can't absolve myself of responsibility in this area. There may be one supplier that's better than the others so I'll see if I can find out which ... Anyway, here's what Tesco say about their fuel

Thank you for your patience

I received the following response this morning regarding the usage of Palm Oil in our bio fuels regrettably, they've not given me a percentage figure.

In 2005 we decided to sell biofuels as we believed that they could help customers reduce their carbon footprint and decrease our use of fossil fuels. Since then, EU legislation has made 5% biofuel obligatory in regular fuels.

We do use some palm oil in the production of our biofuels. However, we are continually seeking to reduce the amount of palm oil we use by supplementing it with other vegetable oils, such as waste tallow.

All major fuel companies are also members of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are committed to sustainably sourcing palm oil used in biofuels.
Greenergy (www.greenergy.com), which supplies almost 50% of our fuel requirements, has been praised for its work in developing biofuel sustainability criteria and audit programmes.

I appreciate that this will not have been the answer you hoped for and I'm sorry that I can't get you a more detailed response. I do hope this information will be of some help to you.

Friday, 13 November 2009

New palm oil free lunch!

Remember Nigella Lawson's programme quite a while ago about good food fast called Nigella Express? Well, her book was £25 when it first came out and I baulked at the cost but it's down to £9 in WH Smith now. On Saturday, I bought the Times and it had a voucher to buy the book for a fiver (one day only) so I hot-footed it into Smiths in Cambridge to buy this marvellous bargain.

It has loads of recipes I think I'll be giving a go; the first one I tried was a ripe avocado, mashed with 2 teaspoons lime juice and seasoning to taste. I's very green! Nigella spreads hers on sourdough bread but it's equally good on bread from my new breadmaker and also, it's a great topping for Ryevita which is my standby lunch when I've no bread. I've had it twice now; hope Nigella won't mind me repeating the recipe here but I am giving her book a plug at the same time! :-)


In response to an appeal on Nature Alert, I have written to Mars as below. Please note before clicking the link, Nature Alert contains some very upsetting content and unvarnished truths. Tonight, BBC3 is repeating a programme Britains Really Disgusting Food Diary which highlights Mars' uncaring attitude towards the use of palm oil in its products. You can also view it on I-Player here, if you want to fast-forward to the bit about palm oil, it's at 32.00 (about half way through the programme). My e-mail outlines why I am annoyed with Mars.

I am trying to live palm oil free having discovered the devastation to rainforest habitats being created by palm oil growers. I used to regularly purchase products made by Mars but after seeing some of your products list Vegetable Oil/Fat as an ingredient (usually a euphemism for palm oil), I stopped.

If you have a list of your products which are free of palm oil (or palm oil derivatives), I would find this most helpful.

Additionally, after viewing the BBC programme, Britain's Really Disgusting Food Dairy, I am shocked that your target to be using sustainable palm oil is 2015 at a time when many companies are bringing forward theirs to much earlier. Whilst I am advocating a zero tolerance towards palm oil myself, I recognise that sustainable sources are a first step in erradicating this pernicious ingredient from the consumer supply chain and Mars MUST do more to preserve what little rainforest is left to the orangutans and other wildlife.

If you are similarly as cross about Mars as I am, please write to them using Mars contact form on their website.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

New tap

I've had a new tap fitted in my kitchen this morning. To enable the plumber to get to the pipes, I had to remove all the items under the sink. The contents of this cupboard represent my entire stock of household cleaning items. It was therefore an opportune time to make a list of the products along with the name of the manufacturer. When I get this typed into a Word table, I'll be able to sort the multitude of items by manufacturer and then write one letter about all the items I buy to each company and ask them if any contain palm oil/palm oil derivatives.

Will keep you posted!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Holding response from Tesco

I wrote another e-mail to Tesco last week letting them know that I am switching all my on-line purchases to Sainsbury's and also enquiring why they hadn't yet responded about what the 5% bio fuel component of their diesel and petrol is made from. Here is their reply:

I'm very sorry that I've not yet received a reply to your query. Please let me assure you that I've not forgotten about this and I have escalated the matter again on your behalf. As soon as I receive I will be in contact again and I do appreciate your patience on this matter.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sainsbury's - yay!

When you're ordering groceries on-line, there's this lovely feature called your Favourites List. Every time you order something, it gets automatically added to your FL. After you've done a few shops, pretty much everything you buy regularly from the supermarket is on it and then shopping is really easy, you just go through the list ordering anything you've run out of. It used to take me 20 minutes with Tesco once I'd given the cupboards and fridge a once over.

As I said in a previous blog entry, I'm ditching Tesco and am currently going through the pain of shopping on-line at Sainsbury's without the benefit of an FL. The order took nearly two hours to do because my favourites list is in its infancy.

So far, the things I've discovered I've forgotten are limes, loo roll, onions, cashew nuts and rice. But hopefully, we'll get there in the end.

I was just waiting to see whether the Sainsbury's order arrived safely before telling Tesco why I'm now shopping elsewhere and chasing them for a reply about their fuel. I'll let you know when/if I receive a reply.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Toothpaste update

Had a reply from Colgate-Palmolive today, who say:
Thank you for contacting us again with your question. Your interest in our Company and our products is greatly appreciated. We are happy to have the oportunity to assist you. Colgate Toothpaste does not contain palm oil or any ingredients that have been derived from it. Than you for taking time etc. blah blah

Why couldn't they just say that when I wrote the first time??!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

World Wildlife Fund publish palm oil buyers scorecard

The World Wildlife Fund has recently published its Palm Oil Scorecard for European companies, you can download it from this page of WWF website. As Sainsbury's is scoring so much better than Tesco, I am switching all my on-line shopping to Sainsbury's

I have also recently read, on a very recently discovered fellow palm oil avoider's blog, that Sainsbury's appear to have a similar honest labelling policy as the Co-Op when it comes to palm oil in their own-brand ranges.

Since starting this non-palm oil buying malarky, I find that my list of things that I buy from the supermarket is dwindling on pretty much a weekly basis but it's so much easier to get them to deliver things like wine (heavy) and loo roll and all the other things I don't want to cart back from the shops. As I live such a distance away (without a car) it makes more sense environmentally that they deliver it whilst they're on their round and uses far less fuel per customer.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bread passes the sandwich test!

I am pleased to say the bread made with my new breadmaker is just like "proper" shop bought bread! (but without the preservatives and additives - and most importantly for me - no palm oil!)

I had planned us to have some of the loaf with our dinner last night. I thought I had put it on rapid bake to give a loaf in an hour and a bit but as it ended up taking nearly 3 hours, I must've forgotten to press something cos that's how long the basic bread recipe takes. Practice will make perfect, I'm sure. Anyway, I had a test slice yesterday evening at about 8pm when it was still warm and I was very pleasantly surprised. For my lunch today, I had a sandwich made with cheese and pickle and it was lovely!

I don't know why I am so astonished, I suppose I didn't like to get my hopes up after all the disappointments of my handmade bread. I think I was also sneakily half hoping that a machine wouldn't be able to do it better. Because I'm a craftsperson, I tend to think handmade is ALWAYS going to produce superior results. However, I content myself with thinking that bread probably is still better handmade when made by someone who knows what they are doing and has had lots of practice.

There are tons of recipes in the book that comes with the breadmaker. I am particularly looking forward to trying citrus and walnut bread. The machine will also make cake, tea bread (banana and cinnamon - yum!) and jam; I wonder if I'm too late for apricots, there were some lovely ripe ones on the market last year.

So, I think on the palm oil front, all the things I eat are now palm oil free. The exception is when I go to dinner with family or friends who aren't being as anal as I am about it. But I'm not refusing to eat what they offer me (else I'd never get invited) because when they come to eat at my house, I give them palm oil free items and so it cancels itself out.

All the things I buy for the bathroom are palm oil free.

The next areas to tackle are:
  1. Follow up on the bio fuel. Tesco haven't replied when I asked them what they put in the 5% of fuel that the EU dictates must be bio fuel. After the fiasco last year when they had to repair thousands of motorists cars when their fuel damaged engined, I refuse to believe that they don't know exactly what every drop of their fuel contains right now and they are taking far too long to reply to me, it must've been weeks ago that I asked. I also want to write to other fuel suppliers and ask what they use for bio fuel. I think I may well not be able to do anything about this except let my displeasure be known. I can't remember where I read it but someone once said "The commonest way that people give up their power is by thinking they haven't got any" (or words to that effect). Whenever I wonder why I am bothering writing all these letters and going to extra trouble sourcing my groceries, I bear that in mind and think maybe, just maybe, it will make some kind of difference to the wildlife in the rainforest and the indiginous peoples who are being thrown off land they have lived on for hundreds of years.
  2. Cosmetics. I use very few but after scrutinising the labels against the list of suspect ingredients, I think some may contain palm oil, I want to be sure.
  3. Household cleaning products. I have done a little preliminary research on suppliers but I haven't yet started writing letters/e-mails on that front. I think this will be a big one (s'why I'm leaving it til last!)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Chocolate and toothpaste with some bread

I found this palm oil free chocolate supplier through a link on Nature Alert (warning Nature Alert has upsetting content and unvarnished truths).

As well as not containing palm oil, 10p from every Chokolit bar is donated to various charities which help endangered animals. The different flavours all sound absolutely scrumtious. I'm not much of a dark chocolate fan myself but Milk Chocolate crunch (Amur leopard and tiger), Premium Belgian Milk Chocolate (lions) and Premium Belgian White Chocolate with hint of lemon (tigers) have all taken my fancy. I may even give the Dark Chocolate with a hint of chilli a try cos I really like chilli. :-) They do a gift pack of any five of the chocolate bars for £9.99 including post and packaging.

Apparently their products are being stocked by Sainsburys and you can also buy on-line. I'm skint after my holiday and buying a breadmaker but I have bookmarked and will be purchasing very shortly! I'll have a look in Sainsburys on Saturday in Cambridge to see if they carry it, it's not that big a store so I guess they may not.

My Riddells Creek Lemon toothpaste has arrived and I just tried some. Some small bubbles appeared when I squeezed it out on the toothbrush which I found slightly offputting! It kind of "blobs up" on the toothbrush so it isn't as "tidy" as using Colgate but it didn't fall off so it's still easy to use. I'm relieved to say that it didn't taste like soap, the lemon comes through nicely and it has a pleasant zingy aftertaste.

As I type, I am using my breadmaker for the first time ... more on that soon!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Cadbury reply

I wrote to Cadbury as follows:

I was very pleased to discover that due to consumer pressure, you are not going ahead with using palm oil in your products in New Zealand and Australia. I am concerned though that you are continuing to use it in products supplied to the UK. This suggests that consumer pressure is more effective in those countries. I have been trying to live without palm oil as far as I can as I do not wish my consumer choices to help palm oil plantations continue to destroy wildlife habit in the rainforest. Since the extensive reporting about palm oil and Cadbury, I have stopped buying Cadbury Products. If you have a list of your products that do not contain palm oil, I would find this extremely helpful and would welcome your comments on whether a sustained and effective consumer campaign in the United Kingdom would make Cadbury change their mind about whether to use palm oil in products supplied to the UK.

This is the reply they have sent to me:

Thank you for your query about palm oil and Cadbury.

Cadbury has committed to source all palm oil sustainably by 2014.

We have been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since it began. We have played a major role in developing the RSPOs activities and working with other businesses to adopt sustainable palm oil.

We are continuing this work, only buying the palm oil we use from other members of RSPO who are working in the same way and developing sources of sustainable palm oil to use for the small amount of palm oil that is included in some of our products.

Although we only use around 40,000t of palm oil, compared to the millions of tonnes used by others, we have been keen to develop sustainable sources, encouraging others to do the same and to use those sources to help minimise the impact of palm oil production and maintain natural ecosystems. Developing these sustainable sources is also crucial to enable the large users of palm oil in the far-east to also adopt sustainable practices.

This work is continuing and the ongoing support of the multi-stakeholder group of businesses, Governments and campaigning organisations within the RSPO is important in developing increasingly robust farming practices. While our use of palm oil is relatively minor, we view the impact of palm oil development on the environment seriously. As a result, we are also part of the partnership between industry and campaigning organisations such as Greenpeace, WWF, Conservation International, Rainforest Project and the Rainforest Alliance that is speeding up the growth of sustainable sources of palm oil. This also supports a moratorium on any further deforestation that might arise from palm oil farming.

I hope that you would agree that, through our work, we are supporting your suggestions. We will continue to work to deliver and encourage the use of sustainable palm oil in the future. Cadbury Consumer Relations Department

Actually, no I don't agree - just please address my specific requests rather than sending a generic policy that you send to everyone. I have asked for a list of products that do (or do not) contain palm oil (not supplied) and why haven't you addressed why in the UK, we are being palmed off (excuse the pun) with the cheap chocolate whilst the Kiwi's get the better product? (Ignored). I have written back hoping they will address my specific requests next time.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bread ... I surrender!

As you know, I have been buying palm oil free bread from the Co-Op but it's expensive and not great for making sandwiches out of as it's more of a big roll than a loaf. I've made lots of palm oil free loaves myself in both wholemeal and white bread. The early ones all came out very "heavy" and although they were fine when toasted and eaten with soup, they're not very good for sandwich making either.

I have been varying the amount of yeast, doing more kneading, baking it higher and then lower temperatures etc. but the results of my later loaves are the same as the early ones. Home baked bread is supposed to be one of the epicural delights, people write poems about it. I get the smell ... wow, that's lovely, really really good but I have finally had to admit defeat - I just don't have what it takes to make good bread.

I've decided to see if a breadmaker can make a better job of it and have pondered where it could go in my kitchen. The worktops are already pretty full up, if truth be told, I don't have room. If I keep it in a cupboard, it will hardly ever get used (like the food processor). So I have to sacrifice something else. The microwave gets used very little and is actually the first microwave I ever bought - it has kept going all this time since about 1986! It's probably because it's only ever used for scrambled eggs, the odd reheating of leftovers and occasional in-a-hurry baked potato (the ones from the fan oven are much better!)

So, I have done my research at Which? and have purchased a Kenwood BM450; its scheduled to arrive on Monday. After the weekend, my microwave will be consigned to the spare room until I decide whether the breadmaker is of more value.

Palm oil free toothpaste update

Colgate have replied to my letter, they say:

Thank you for contacting us with your question. Your interest in our Company and its products is greatly appreciated. We are happy to have the opportunity to assist you.

The Sodium Lauryl Sulfate used in our toothpastes is not palm oil derived.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and for your interest in our Company and its products.

I realise now that my original letter, instead of asking whether the SLS was palm oil derived, should've asked whether any of the ingredients were palm oil derived - economy of truth is what big companies do best so I have written to them again asking for an unequivocal yes or no as to whether it contains palm oil/derivatives.

Notice how they have just ignored everything I said about the forest people being displaced in the country where they buy their palm oil.

When searching for other sources of palm oil free toothpaste, I came across Biome in Australia (where else?!) They have two toothpastes listed and I wrote to ask them if they were palm oil free and they have assured me that they are. They are:
  • Pure and Green Organics teeth and guns toothpaste - mint
  • Riddells Creek organic toothpaste
Since discovering the names of palm oil free toothpastes, it's easier to find UK suppliers, I have ordered some Riddells Creek organic Lemon toothpaste from My Pure. During the postal strike, you can have your parcel delivered by DHL and it only costs £3.00 per package which - confusingly - is less than a lot of companies charge by Royal Mail or Parcelforce (must have a special deal or be subsidising it).

I'll naturally report here what I think of it.

Lots of updates

I can either do a really big posting or split it up into little ones, probably better in small ones so this is the first today.

I am indebted to an e-mail correspondent called James who is - poor guy - allergic to palm oil. He has supplied me with a far more compehensive list of palm oil euphemisms so I have updated the list to the left and I'm sure you can see, it has grown extensively! James informs me that palm oil is also contained in UV cured finishes used in kitchen cabinetry and furniture manufacturing - so something else to look out for when leading the palm oil free life.

Some of the things on the list are derivitives, this means they are made from palm oil - however, beware that although commonly palm oil is used when making the derivitives (because it's so much cheaper than other vegetable oils), sometimes things like sodium lauryl sulphate and glycerine (for example) can be derived from other sources like cocoa nuts.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Update on toothpaste

The work goes on. Despite my little tantrum yesterday, my dear husband has made me see the positive side of continuing my crusade. He says I have gone at it as I do pretty much everything at a gallop and it was inevitable that I would have to slow to a bit of a canter else I'd just drive myself crazy.

The trouble is, when I'm in gallop mode, that's when I'm at my most productive and creative. Anyway, when it comes to palm oil, I'm going to be taking it a bit slower so I can get on with the rest of my life at the same time.

The big summer busy period is slowing rapidly and so I should have a bit of time for next few weeks.

I'm still on the toothpaste trail at the moment. I got a response to my initial enquiry from Colgate-Palmolive. They say that they use palm oil in Palmolive Shave Stick and in Palmolive Bar Soaps but they have not answered my specific enquiry about whether any of the ingredients in their toothpaste are derived from palm oil. So I've written back asking them about the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate listed on their ingredients list - SLS can be derived from coconut oil as well as palm oil so I've written to them again asking for clarification.

They go on to state that the palm oil they use is sourced from Malaysia and they state they only buy "raw materials sourced from responsible farmers in a responsible nation". If only this were true. In my reply to Colgate-Palmolive, I've made the following points which pretty much sum up my position:

Concerning the point you make that palm oil is an important resource to rural communities, you make no mention of the Penan people being forced out of the forest which has provided them with shelter and food for generations, living in harmony with the forest in a totally sustainable manner.

This very week, the Penan people are protesting against logging and palm oil plantations in five locations in northern Sarawak and in interior Suai in the Niah district south of Miri. If the Malaysian Government and your supplier are doing all that you say about ensuring palm oil is produced in a sustainable and responsible manner, why are the Penan people still at odds with Malaysia’s government and logging/palm oil plantations? After loggers have finished their work, palm oil companies move in and therefore the same palm oil that is creating jobs is also destroying the livelihoods of the nomadic peoples, wiping out any benefit - and all this is quite aside from the fact that wildlife habitat is also disappearing. The palm oil industry cannot wring its hands and say it is the loggers fault, without logging they could not grow their palm oil trees.

Big thanks to Laura's blog where she mentions Milka chocolate - the manufacturers, Kraft, confirm that this chocolate does not contain palm oil and so that's another source for any chocoholiques (along with the Co-Op's fair trade chocolate). At last - some good news! :-)

Kraft confirm that some of their products do contain palm oil and - most unusually - have helpfully provided me with a list so I can avoid those:

  • Dairylea Dunkers Baked Crisp
  • Kraft Singles Cheese Slices
  • Philadelphia Splendips Nachos
  • Oreo Biscuits
  • Mikado Biscuits
  • Ritz Biscuits
  • Kenco Cappio Cappuccino
  • Kenco Cappio Caffe Latte
  • Maxwell House CafĂ© Latte
  • Maxwell House Cappuccino

I commend Kraft's transparency and openness and thank them for providing this information. Only Weetabix have shown the same level of integrity.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Palm oil in fuel

I've been very slow in updating the palm oil blog lately. To tell you the truth, I'm in despair over it. There is an EU requirement that all fuel supplied in this country contains 5% bio fuel, ie palm oil or other vegetable oils.

Anything I do to reduce the amount of palm oil I eat and use in cosmetics/soap/household products pales into insignificance if palm oil is used in 5% of all the fuel used in the whole of Europe.

UK consumers have shown how much they don't care about palm oil destroying the rainforest by allowing Cadbury to continue to put palm oil in chocolate in this country whereas in New Zealand and Australia, their consumers have got Cadbury to turn tail and run when they proposed putting palm oil in chocolate over there. Why doesn't consumer power work in the UK - because there aren't enough people writing letters and e-mails of complaint.

I've dedicated so much time and effort to this but I'm finding it hard to get the motivation together to write any more letters and e-mails which all achieve nothing if no-one else joins in. I was hoping I could use my research to make a website to inform people how to live without palm oil but it seems pretty much an impossible task now.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Tesco labelling response and toothpaste

I've received a response from Tesco concerning labelling and this is their reply:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my previous email.

I appreciate that labelling the products which contain Palm Oil would be very beneficial to you and certainly help you in making your choices as to which products you can buy. Regrettably, this is not something we have any plans for at present.

However I can see from your email that you are finding it easier to purchase products from other retailers as they have the information that you need. I will be sure to pass on your further comments to our Head Office to let them know that the lack of information is causing you to shop elsewhere and this is something which will be looked at when planning future labelling reviews.

I would like to thank you again for taking the time to respond and if you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me again.

I have written to them again asking if my Tesco own brand hair mousse contains palm oil as I've run out and the ingredients are confusing - if I were buying this from the Co-Op's own brand, I could be sure it was palm oil free because of their honest labelling policy.

Additionally, I have read this article on Nature Watch (warning: website contains some upsetting photographs of orangutans in distress) and so, whilst I was writing to Tesco, have asked if they are adding palm oil to their diesel. Our car is diesel so I'll have to find out where my husband fills up and see if they are adding palm oil to their diesel.

There have been replies about toothpaste but I am having to write back for clarification on some points so will report on toothpaste when I've got conclusive points to make. At present though it's not looking good and as toothpaste is something I would be very loath to be without, I think I may fail to find an alternative but I'll keep you posted!

Friday, 7 August 2009

My first loaf

My first palm oil free loafHere it is then, my very first loaf made with flour from the Kirton Lindsey windmill. I was so proud of it ... til I cut it. It was all "doughey" inside, like it wasn't cooked all the way through so although it looks nice, it was 'orrible to eat! Far too heavy :-(

Typical me, I started big with a 2lb loaf. I think I'll get a smaller tin tomorrow when I'm in Cambridge and have a go at getting smaller ones right first. I don't think I cooked it for long enough. When I set the timer, I think I set it for the smaller one (recipe gives 3 sizes) and by the time I realised, I couldn't remember what I'd set it at and it looked done so I took it out.

I got a written response from Kingsmill in reply to my letter. They say they DID respond to my earlier e-mail and attached a copy ... but unfortunately, they failed to attach the copy e-mail!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Today - toothpaste

I am on the trail of palm oil free toothpaste today. I have found a shop called Animal Aid Shop and the page I have linked to has some toothpaste on it. I wrote to them last week and they tell me that they are very careful to buy products which do not contain palm oil wherever possible; they stock the Little Satsuma soaps, candles and palm-oil free fudge. They say their chocolates are fine, but some toiletries may contain palm oil.

They haven't specifically stated that the toothpaste is palm oil free but the ingredients are: Aqua, Glycerine (Veg), Creta praeparata, Xanthan gum, Commiphora myrrha, Asorbic acid, D-limolene, (from essential oils), Natural flavour oils. They further state that their toothpaste does not contain Sodium lauryl sulphate, fluorides or Parabens. So I can't find any of the usual suspects in there but I have today discovered on Wikipedia that Glycerine is derived from vegetable oil so I may have to add that one to the list. Before I clarify with Animal Aid, I've written to Colgate, Aquafresh and GlaxoSmithKline (re: Macleans) to see if any of their toothpastes contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives. If any of these are OK, then I won't need to switch anyway.

I've had a very late response from Tesco, I wrote a follow up e-mail to them on 17 June complaining about how labelling was making it very difficult for me to avoid palm oil and suggesting that they could work with the WWF as they're doing a lot of research on their palm oil scorecard. As Tesco already have a database of all the products they sell in their store, it wouldn't be that much more work to add a field for palm oil so people could consult it on-line.

They thank me for writing and apologise for the delay in replying. They acknowledge my difficulty but say they have no plans to introduce a list of free from Palm Oil products.

Tesco have confirmed that two of their own brand products I specifically asked about (Tesco Baby Lotion and the Tesco Finest Greek Olive spread) do not contain palm oil. They offer to query further products if I write again. I was really hoping they might consider some kind of honest labelling policy like the Co-Op which I find really helpful and gives me confidence when buying Co-Op own brand products. (I've therefore written to them to suggest it).

They say that they've fully logged my concerns and they feel that the work they are putting in to bring sustainable ingredients to the market place will stand them in good stead for the scorecard process. I hope the WWF penalise misleading "vegetable oil" labelling of their products when preparing their scorecard.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Vegetable stock problem solved and more flour

I have heard back from Jardox and they have confirmed that Vecon does not contain palm oil or its derivatives so I have found my replacement for Swiss Marigold Bouillon vegetable stock. I made some more of the carrot and ginger soup with lime yesterday and it tastes every bit as good so I'm sticking with this product in the future.

My husband, Geoff, came home with some more breadmaking flour yesterday. The local Co-Op close to where he works has a local products section and this has been milled at Mount Pleasant Windmill, which is located in Lincolnshire a bit further North than Ellis windmill in Lincoln which we visited last Sunday. The Mount Pleasant flour, like the Ellis windmill flour is untreated and unbleached but you can get it by mail order via http://www.trueloafbakery.co.uk/. The flour from Ellis Windmill is only available when they have some bagged up and when we went, I was lucky to get the last but one bag.

It'll probably be Sunday or next week before I finally get round to making my first loaf; as it's getting close to the end of the week, I need to concentrate on getting stock made for my stall on Saturday.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Freddie the orangutanIsn't this a lovely photograph of a baby orangutan? (He still has better hair than me!)

The Orangutan Foundation have kindly given me permission to use Freddie's photograph in conjunction with my efforts to raise funds for them on the charity page of my Sooz jewels website.

I am sending the £50 I was going to pay to a picture library to the Orangutan Foundation instead.

I have been a bit remiss on reporting on my progress lately, I've not been totally idle on the palm oil front but some of the letters I've been meaning to write did not get written. I have been making some important decisions concerning my business which have got in the way a bit. (To be announced on Sooz Jewels shortly).

Anyway, the letters to Warburton and Kingsmill have now been written and will go off today. Also, I purchased a jar of Vecon concentrated vegetable stock. It is made by Jardox Health. The list of ingredients look like they're palm oil free but I've e-mailed today for an unequivocal statement concerning palm oil and their products so hopefully I should hear back soon so my chilled soup for lunches can be palm oil free.

My husband and I had a trip out to Ellis Windmill in Lincoln on Sunday afternoon. They mill their own wholemeal flour there which I remembered from a trip there many years ago. It is the only surviving and working windmill out of a total of 9 that used to be in Lincoln. The guy who mills the flour also showed us around the mill and I recommend it for a fascinating hour. They're open Saturday and Sunday afternoons only. Admission is free though donations are welcome.

However, from what the miller told me, the dough produced by their flour isn't the most elastic that's available and I may find kneading it for 10 minutes feels like 20! Sounds like I haven't made the best choice of flour for my first loaf but hey ho, I'll give it a go and report back, Tesco delivered some dried quick acting yeast which is recommended in my book so I have no excuse not to make any now!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

More about bread

I have heard from Hovis about why they use small quantities of palm oil in their loaves. Apparently they justify it by saying that it's a good replacement for animal fat (ie lard) which used to be used by bakers. Sunflower/rapeseed oil etc is too liquid it needs to be a hard fat to stop too many bubbles bursting at a critical moment during baking. If the bubbles burst, it gives a texture to the bread that is too open. (Their answer is much longer and very technical!)

Still waiting for responses from Kingsmill and Warburton, I will have to follow up my enquiries through their website contact form with a snail mail letter expressing how disapointed I am with them.

I've now got a book on breadmaking now (ordered that one from Amazon), it's supposed to be the definitive guide to breadmaking and how odd that they don't mention the necessity for hard fat instead of oil; all their recipes use sunflower oil.

But the big discovery of the last few days on the bread front has been palm oil free bread from the Co-Op. Their 2 part baked baguettes which you finish baking yourself uses rapeseed oil and their truly irresistable ciabatta uses extra virgin olive oil. It makes a great bread to eat with the chilled carrot, ginger and lime soup, plus I've also made a big roll with ham, tomato and chutney yesterday which was lovely. The texture of the ciabatta is indeed open but that didn't detract from it for me.

I'm still working on the stock problem so the soup, whilst very very nice, is unacceptable to me once the Swiss Marigold Vegetable Bouillon runs out. I can't seem to find out on-line who makes Vecon so I'm going to have to look at the label again next time I'm shopping and get the manufacturer then.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Thumbs up for Australia!

I picked up a jar of Vecon at the weekend, I didn't buy it because I couldn't tell from the ingredients list if it contains palm oil or not, but I'm hopeful it doesn't. I've used this in the past; it's thick black gooey stuff like marmite or bovril which you dilute for stock. I'll write to them to find out if its palm oil free.

I've had a response from Marigold about their Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, they aren't planning to switch to other oil for their stock powder, they say that they ensure employ Proforest, who are experts in auditing plantations, to ensure that their palm oil is ethically sourced and the Swiss makers are also members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. They also give an explanation of why the can't use anything but palm oil in their product.

I think they'll have to look out though because I have found an Australian manufacturer, Massel, whose product uses olive oil not palm oil. They tell me they hope to have a distributor in the UK by the end of the year. I've written back to Marigold informing them that their competition is on it's way.

The Australian consumer is so far ahead of us when it comes to awareness of palm oil. They have websites that tell them what products to be palm oil free. Also, I read today on Nature Alert (a blog I follow) that an Australian zoo is refusing to stock Cadbury products as they are adding palm oil to their chocolate. Warning:The Nature Alert blogspot is very informative but it has upsetting pictures of orangutans in a bad way before they were rescued so don't click on the link if you're easily upset.

Friday, 10 July 2009


For the last two or three weeks I have needed a haircut - badly! I am very disorganised when it comes to arranging to have my hair cut, there are always lots of other things to do instead ... anyway, Wednesday was the absolute pits, I couldn't make it do anything nice, it looked so bad, I finally rang my stylist and made an appointment, she can't fit me in til Monday afternoon.

If you're fond of orangutans, you've probably seen some very extreme looking hair on some of them; imagine that on a middle-aged brunette female and you're pretty much getting the look that I was going with for most of the past month!

Most of the time it doesn't matter if my hair looks bad, I work alone in my home studio, there's me and the dog most the time (she loves me no matter what), my tortoise when it's sunny (he pretty much doesn't notice) and my husband joins us in the evenings (ditto! bless him!) But I have to face my customers on my market stall on Saturday, oh well, never mind, hopefully they won't notice me; they'll be too busy looking at my jewellery.

However, the shampoo and conditioner I got from Elemis (the brand name is Steiner) has worked absolute magic this morning, for some reason my hair has gone right ... that's weird isn't it??! I'm sure I didn't do anything different with hairdryer, in fact I wasn't hopeful at all as the shampoo made my hair feel like it was being stripped (like the Little Satsuma stuff did) and I just hoped that the conditioner would be able to fix that and whether it's the combination of the two or what, I don't care - I'm having my first good hair day for weeks and it feels great!

Now I'm wondering whether to cancel my appointment ... nah! Better not push it :-)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Excllent news and a disappointment

Excellent response from Elemis who say:
I can confirm that we do not use Palm Oil or any Palm Oil derivatives in our products. This includes the ingredients you have mentioned below. These ingredients are derived from alternative sources such like Coconut Oil.

I've already used the bathroom this morning but I will start using the shampoo and conditioner tomorrow and let you know what I think

There's been a bit of a blow on the chilled soups front. I got all the ingredients I need to make the carrot, ginger and lime chilled soup yesterday. However, I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder to make my stock with. I'm happy to spend the time making the soup but making vegetable stock as well is just a time commitment too far I'm afraid. However, Palm Oil is listed as an ingredient of the Vegetable Bouillon powder, along with an asterisk saying that it's sourced from sustainable plantations. 10 out of 10 for adopting an honest labelling policy but ...

As you know, I'm adopting a zero tolerance on palm oil, it's too easy to say it's sustainable and when you hear anecdotal evidence from people working in the field with the wildlife say there's no such thing as sustainable palm oil, plus the fact that a WWF report states that
only 1 percent of the sustainable palm oil available on the market has been bought,
I'm disinclined to believe companies that say they are currently buying from sustainable sources. I'm writing to Marigold Health Foods to tell them how disappointed I am.

So I'm now on the hunt for an alternative. The reason I like the Marigold Bouillon powder is that it has no preservatives, colouring or artificial flavouring. Oxo beef stock cubes don't have palm oil but the flavour is a bit strong and it's packed with E-numbers and MSG.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Here we go again (but I hope not)

On the strength of Elemis's assertion that they don't use Palm Oil or Palm Oil derivatives in any of their products I ordered five items from their website and they have arrived safely this morning.

The very first ingredient listed on the hand and body wash is sodium laureth sulfate and is also listed on some of the other products. Additionally, isopropyl myristate is also listed as being contained in the hair conditioner. I know from my research that these products can be derived from either coconut or palm oil (which is why they're on my list of suspect ingredients). I'm really hoping their SLS and IM are derived from coconut oil and have written for reassurance accordingly.

The items all look lovely ... I really hope I don't have to send them back!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

We have bread at last

On Saturday, the Cambridge Cheese company had some of the Poilane French bread I was telling you about a couple of weeks ago. Here's what half a loaf looks like. I'm hoping it will last us all week. We had some with our dinner on Saturday and I also enjoyed it yesterday with some liver and port pate (again from the Cambridge Cheese company), very tasty!

Today's lunch will be leftovers from last night's dinner of pasta bake. I'm beginning to realise that on our tea/dinner meals, we're actually already pretty much palm oil free. We eat very few processed/pre-packaged meals. Mostly we cook fresh, but I will shortly start scrutinising the list of ingredients of all the things that we cook with for our evening meals.

I also realised yesterday that there's another option for lunches, I often have a bowl of soup in the winter, don't really feel like eating soup in the summer, especially when it's as hot as it has been recently but there are some great recipes for chilled soups in my New Covent Garden Soup Company's Book of Soups. Chilled soup will be lovely for the summer and means I can use the Poilane loaf to make croutons (I'll just toast it and cut it into squares) so when it's getting dry at the end of the week, I can still eat it. I've had the book several years and a quick check on Amazon shows it's still in print. I'm going to have a go at making ginger and carrot soup with lime first but iced cucumber and yoghurt plus acocado and cucumber are both of my list to try.

I've heard back from Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of E45 cream, who say "Our laboratories have looked at the formulation for E45 Cream and commented that it is unlikely that anything related to palm oil is in the formulation". It's not really an unequivocal statement (which is what I asked for) but as the list of ingredients doesn't contain any of the usual palm oil "suspects", I'm going to believe them.

It's a similar story from Dermal Laboratories who say "We can confirm that palm oil is not one of the ingredients in Dermol Cream (or any of our other products), and to the best of our knowledge none of the ingredients are derived directly from it." Ditto regarding their ingredients list.

I'm waiting for a delivery from Elemis of their shampoo and conditioner, it's a 3-5 day delivery service so it should be here any time.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Another donation

I sold a pair of my red mist earrings from my jewellery stall on Saturday (thanks Sue and Lucie) so there's another £6 to send to the Orangutan Foundation. I got the receipt for the first donation this morning so I'll scan it in and post that later in the week when it's hopefully cooled down.

Long-winded e-mails and to-ing and fro-ing with the Co-Op (I won't bore you with the details) has finally established that their Fairtrade milk chocolate is palm oil free. Plus the Co-Op tell me they have an honest labelling policy and so if there is palm oil in their own-brand products, it is listed as that and NOT disguised as something else - hurray for them! So I'm glad I don't have to give up chocolate altogether though I am missing Mars Bars. I always used to get myself one on a Saturday as a treat. :-(

I got a Money Sense magazine recently sent to me by my bank which gave a promotional code to obtain 15% off Elemis products who do beauty and skin care stuff. I wrote to them and they have confirmed back that their products are all palm oil free and (as far as they are aware), the ingredients are not derived from palm oil. I've ordered some things from them including shampoo and conditioner but I'm reserving judgement til I've scrutinised their ingredients list and checked euphemisms etc. It's not very good to say "as far as we're aware"; I think they should know personally plus they're a bit expensive again like Weleda (boo hiss!) Weleda have refunded me my money after I complained about their ingredients list, but not the full amount. What's all that about then??! At least Morning Foods sent me a full refund.

Hovis have replied that their bread is not palm oil free but they have set themselves a target to be 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified ‘sustainable’ palm oil by 2011. They point out that palm oil comprises only 0.5% of a loaf so I'm wondering why have it at all and why nothing else will do but at least they replied which is more than I can say for Kingsmill and Warburtons so far.

For lunches at the moment, I am currently eating four slices of Ryvita (which from the ingredients list can't possibly contain palm oil). I'm experimenting with different toppings and having some fruit afterwards. Some toppings (such as cheese either sliced or grated) fall off too easily when you're biting it and so it needs something to "wet" the ingredients together so they stick to the crispbread. Plus they have a tin offer on their website! I like tins! :-)

My favourite topping so far has been line caught tuna (from the Co-Op) mashed up with black pepper and a dollop of salad cream. I'm thinking this will also be nice with finely chopped spring onions. Further suggestions are welcome!

I'm thinking lunches in winter can be Heinz Tomato or Vegetable soup with croutons made with toasted French bread from the Cambridge Cheese Company. Might consider making my own bread as well but it's always a question of time really. I don't have a bread maker but I've added The Definitive Guide to Making Bread by Hand or Machine (Pyramid Paperbacks) to my Amazon wish list just to show willing!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Toiletries and lunch update

On the toiletries front, this week, I have been using the deoderant, shampoo bar, unscented rich and hydrating moisturiser that I bought from Little Satsuma. I'm already a fan of the soaps and orange lip balm but I cannot get on with the shampoo bar. It's pleasant enough to use, but it leaves my hair feeling "stripped". If I'd tried to blow dry it after using it, I'm sure it would've got all tangled up so I had to put on masses of (palm oil containing) conditioner after using it, before I felt confident of drying my hair. So I'm still on the hunt for palm oil free shampoo and conditioner.

The moisturing cream is great, I was full of trepidation putting it on my face for the first time, I have used my usual moisturiser every day since I was seventeen (I'm not saying how long it has been, suffice it to say a lo-o-o-ong time!) No adverse reaction and my skin feels smooth and soft. I'm also using it as handcream. It says its a body moisturiser but it comes in such a small tin (120ml), I feel I need a bulk body lotion. I suffer from eczema from time to time and so a preventative all over moisturise session is part of my regime, not on a daily basis but fairly regularly.

I've been using E45 cream in a 500ml pump action pack as a prevenative and Dermol (ditto) when the eczema is active as it has an anti-bacterial forumula which stops the itchy patches getting infected. The ingredients listed don't actually look as if they contain palm oil but I'm going to e-mail both companies just to be sure.

I was doubtful about the deoderant as I've previously used Sure or Dove anti-perspirant roll on. I was absolutely sure that I would sweat and have wet underarms which I'm not sure I could put up with ... but I decided to see how it went. Even in all this warm weather, I've stayed dry so I'll probably stick with it. It could be that after decades of anti-perspirants, my underarm sweat glands have given up the ghost and refuse to work any more!

I haven't had any more responses from the lunch items, but I'll give them a few more days before chasing. I have however, made a start on enquiring from loaf manufacturers on whether any of their bread is palm oil free. I wrote to Hovis last week, today I followed up by writing to Kingsmill and Warburtons. I'll report back on responses here.

Monday, 22 June 2009


I got a reply from Heinz very quickly asking me to give them a ring so I did. The Customer Services lady I spoke to just now said that very few Heinz products have palm oil in them and the vegetable oil they use in salad cream is rape seed oil or sunflower oil. I should've asked why they don't know which one but perhaps they standardise their labelling. Either way, I don't really mind which it is so I'm just leaving it at that - one of life's little mysteries!

Good news from Heinz

Heinz have sent me the following:
"Thank you for contacting us with regard to Baked Beans, HP Sauce, Salad Cream, Tomato Soup & Vegetable Soup. I would like to confirm these products do not contain Palm Oil."

I'm slightly surprised by the response as Heinz Salad Cream has vegetable oil in its ingredients list so I am writing to them again just to clarify what oil the vegetable oil is. I really like a scraping of salad cream on a ham/cheese and salad sandwich so I'm really hoping for a positive response and not a re-run of the Morning Foods fiasco!

No other responses yet but I'll keep you updated on replies.

Excellent news also from The Cambridge Cheese Company, an independent cheese shop and delicatessen in All Saints Passage, just behind the Art & Craft market in Cambridge where I sell my jewellery on a Saturday. We often buy gourmet items from them. Geoff, my husband, goes shopping for our Saturday evening meal there whilst I'm on the stall.

They stock a bread which is made in France, it comes in a big cob and it is palm oil free. We tried some a couple of weeks ago and quite liked it. It's not as moist as a loaf and according to the chap who runs the shop, it never goes off. It's quite dry (but not as dry as a crispbread) to start with so you need to make sure you put lots of moist items in it to make a palatable sandwich. After a couple of days it is even drier but makes great toast if you put some Tiptree marmalade or jam on it (palm oil free!) Trouble is supply seems to be a bit sporadic, last week they didn't have any in because it was a bank holiday in France and this week, they just didn't deliver ... I guess that's the French for you (bless em!)

Additionally, Geoff asked about their policy on palm oil and the owner said that his wife did most of the buying and apparently it sounds as if she feels as strongly about palm oil as I do; he couldn't guarantee that nothing ever gets under her radar but I'm really reassured by that! They have great handmade pickles in there so I'm quite relaxed about giving up salad cream if I have to and using that instead. :-)

We went to my mum and dads for lunch yesterday for Father's Day and we've come home laden with strawberries and raspberries from my dad's allotment so breakfast with Oatiflakes is well and truly sorted now. Especially now I know from Heinz that baked beans are palm oil free - on the odd occasion when we have a cooked breakfast, I can now be sure that every breakfast from now on is palm oil free. I feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Friday, 19 June 2009

When is a soap not a soap?

I did a load of gardening yesterday afternoon with the weather a bit cooler, it was a perfect opportunity to get the lawn (well, the weeds!) cut and tidy up a border. I came in all hot and needing a shower. I'd had a vague sort of headache all day which I woke up with so I unwrapped what I thought was the rosemary and tea tree soap as I know rosemary is good for headaches. It was only when I was looking around the bathroom for the new shampoo that I bought from Little Satsuma that I realised the soap was a shampoo bar!

Trouble is it's the same shape and size as the larger soaps that I bought and whilst all the different scents are slightly different shade of beige/cream, it's going to be difficult to tell them apart. It would be a good idea to make the shampoo a different shape so you can tell which is which! I fished the labels out of the bin and the label is a different colour but that doesn't help when it's unwrapped.

I examined the ingredients hoping that they were the same and the two were inter-changeable but - putting aside what I think must be the ingredients for scent - there is one ingredient different, the shampoo has Sodium Castorate instead of Butyrospermum Parkii in it. Ooops!

Oh well, I don't seem to have suffered any ill effects, I must say that the orange lip balm is the best lip balm I have ever used, I love the smell and it stays on for ages.

We tried Oatibix flakes for breakfast today and they got the thumbs up from both of us so I think we have found our substitute breakfast cereal. We'll try a few palm oil free others before finally settling though.

Right, I have lots of e-mails to write to companies that produce things that I eat for lunch so I'm off to do that.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

What do men smell of?

The Little Satsuma soaps arrived, two from the Orangutan Foundation and also I ordered a sample pack of various different scented ones directly. I got some deoderant, lip balm and moisturisers from them as well. I'm using up my current supplies of moisturiser etc. at the moment but we have given the Apeing around apple soap a go over the last couple of days.

It smells divine and is really nice and creamy; I really like it. It's too soon to say whether, together with moisturiser it will keep my eczma at bay. I'm not using the moisturiser that I bought yet as I want to finish my Oil of Olay first. Plus just in case I have a reaction to a new moisturiser, I would prefer it to be early next week as I obviously have to meet my public on Saturday on my market stall.

When I asked DH (darling husband) what he thought about the apple soap, he wasn't that keen on scented soaps. In the past few months, we have been using Dove soap (unscented uses palm oil), Simple Soap (unscented, not sure on palm oil as I don't have a wrapper at the moment) and more recently Tesco Pure (unscented, definitely uses palm oil). I asked him what the problem was with the scent and he said he'd prefer to smell like a man ... which led me to ask what a man smells like? He didn't have a ready answer for that (most unlike him!) When I offered the hypothesis that maybe it was flatulence and beer, we had quite a laugh!

I have pointed out that I also have Oatmeal and Shea & Simple soaps in my sample pack which sound scent neutral so he can have those.

Yesterday's half hour was spent replying to Tesco about how labelling of products and identification of palm oil in the plethora of ingredients that are derived from palm oil or have traces in it. I asked how palm oil products are labelled on their own brand goods.

I also put forward the suggestion to Tesco that maybe they could work with the WWF as they're doing a lot of research on their palm oil scorecard. Perhaps my idea of on an on-line database that consumers could consult indicating whether palm oil is present could be incorporated into the WWF project. Tesco provide the baseline data via their on-line database of products as well as resources in keeping it up to date and they could have a bit of a coup on their PR/marketing front in return. I suggested that such a database might also be expanded to address allergy concerns that other consumers have such as containing nuts, aspartame etc. I like to be constructive rather than "bad bad supermarket" finger-waggling. I'll be interested in how they respond.

I wrote to Tiptree products a while ago, they make marmalade, jam, chutney, bar-b-q sauce, some of their products are in my cupboard/fridge and so I wanted to know (as this is a typically palm oil containing product-line) what their policy on palm oil was. I got this very clear response: "With the exception of mincemeat and Christmas puddings, all Tiptree products are free from palm oil or any derivative thereof. I hope this helps".
So that's excellent news, I imagine the minemeat and Christmas puddings have processed vine fruit in, which, as I know from previous enquiries, has palm oil sprayed on it at source to stop it clumping together in transit.

As you can see from above, I'm beginningto expand my enquiries into lunch things and I do like chutney with cheese sandwiches. Got to get onto bread next (which is going to be one of the biggest challenges, methinks).

Monday, 15 June 2009

Lovely breakfast

My other sister (who also has two cats), Sharon, dropped by yesterday afternoon with these strawberries which my dad grew on his allotment (definitely no palm oil in those!) We just ate them for breakfast with Mornflake (grr!) branflakes, skimmed milk and a glass of grapefruit juice. It was lovely though the branflakes are a bit plain plus of course I have fallen out with Morning Foods so I don't want to buy from them again.

So, we have on our list to try from Tesco:
  • Crunchy Bran
  • Oatibix flakes
  • Weetaflakes
We also received a very encouraging e-mail from Dorset Cereals

Thank you for getting in touch with us. With regards to your question, unfortunately a very small amount of Palm Oil is used in some of our ingredients, added at source. We are working very closely to try to remove this from everything. We are not quite there yet but well on the way. You will see the changes in the ingredients lists so please keep an eye out. Thank you for raising this with us. It is good to know that our customers are as keen as us to reduce Palm Oil usage.

I guess they have the same problem as Weetabix Ltd - ie the raisins and other vine fruits are sprayed with palm oil to stop them clumping together in transit. But it's great that they're addressing this so we'll also be trying some of their palm oil free cereals as well. They are stocked in the Co-Op round the corner from his client's office where Geoff spends 2-3 days a week so he'll pick some up next time he's there, he's well briefed on scrutinising ingredients lists now so hopefully he'll come back with one that doesn't include any palm oil at all.
When I got back home on Saturday, there was a note from the postman saying something wouldn't fit through my letterbox; I've rescheduled delivery for Tuesday using Royal Mail's on-line service (I find that very handy!) It must be my soaps from Little Satsuma because my package from the Orangutan Foundation just arrived this morning. I have two soaps from the Orangutan Foundation, a nice poster for my studio and also membership details with a magazine to read. I hope I like the soaps and also the shampoo and moisturiser etc. from Little Satsuma as that will be several palm oil products replaced if I do.

I have received a cheque for some of my Red Mist bead jewellery which sold from my jewellery blog within two days and so I'm off to make my donation of half the proceeds.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The box of cornflakes that won't die!

I have been trying to get rid of the rest of the cornflakes, I abhor waste in about equal measures with palm oil producers so, I bought some Fairtrade Chocolate so I could make chocolate cornflakes (very nice!) However, one bar was not enough and although I've got several chocolate treats to enjoy over next few days, there are STILL some left!

Checking the ingredients on the fairtrade chocolate, it doesn't appear to contain any of the usual suspects for palm oil (as I've discovered that's no guarantee). I've written to the Co-op to be sure as I'm not sure what cocoa mass contains or how skimmed milk powder is made. These could be hiding palm oil as well.

After getting yesterday's response from Mornflake's manufacturers, I wrote to them asking why they lied to me. This is their apology:

I am sorry for my error - I misinterpreted some information I had been given, I had been asking about the Pillow products, e.g. Mornflake Chocolate Squares etc and was told that "none of them contain palm oil" meaning none of the pillow products......

All of the Crunchy and Crispy products contain Palm Oil but none of the pure Oat products and in the muesli range it is only the vine fruit dressing oil.

Please let me know what you bought and how much you paid and we will arrange a refund

So they're not liars after all, they just employ incompetent staff. I'm not withdrawing yesterday's blog posting because this is a diary after all and that is how I felt about it yesterday. It ruined my day's production because I was so angry about it.

Next Tesco shop, I will be buying from the Weetabix Ltd palm oil free list and seeing if I like any of those. In the meantime, I'll be eating the Mornflake products so they're not wasted though I get cross every time I see the packet!

In exasperation from the Weleda incident, I wrote an e-mail to Little Satsuma. They claim to be palm oil free but as I've heard that before, my e-mail may have read a little aggressively but I have received a lovely e-mail back. They say: "We as a small, family company set up specifically because we couldn't get palm oil free toiletries". They have been scrutinised by the Orangutan Foundation as they supply them (so I've probably got some of their stuff on the way!) And so ... finally ... a company I can trust. I will be ordering some of their products later on.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Morning Foods Ltd / Buckley Foods Ltd - liars

This is absolutely unbelievable.

To my enquiry about whether the vegetable oil in one of their products is palm oil, I have received the following response:
Sorry to disappoint you but the vegetable oil used for all our Crunchy cereals is currently Palm Oil because it gives the best biscuit-like texture. We are currently considering the green palm scheme (see www.greenpalm.org) but until prices etc have stabilised we are staying with current suppliers.

I have asked for a refund. How the heck are ordinary consumers supposed to buy items without palm oil when the companies just lie when you ask them about their products and the labels aren't clear?

To enable anyone reading this to make up their own minds about whether or not they are liars, here is a full text of my e-mails to and fro. Mine are in ordinary type, theirs in italics.
I am trying to find a breakfast cereal that is both low in salt and - more importantly to me - free of palm oil. I am hopeful that some of your products meet this criteria? Please can you advise.

Thank you for your enquiry via the Mornflake website.
All of our Oats (Porridge, Jumbo, Bran etc) are low in salt in that we do not add anything. Our range of other breakfast cereals i.e. Mueslis, Oat Crunchy's and Oat Crisp products are low in salt but the Oatbran Flake products contain "medium" salt for processing reasons. All of our products have nutritional information on the packs which includes salt quantities.
None of the products we make contain palm oil.

(Note: the above emboldening is mine for emphasis.)

Thank you so much for your swift response. I am most heartened and reassured to receive the information in your e-mail.
Sorry to be a pain with another question. When I contacted Alpen about their muesli, they told me that the raisins in Alpen are sprayed with a small amount of oil derived from Palm Oil as a processing aid (Apparently processing aids do not require labeling). Do you know if your raisins use Palm Oil as a processing aid?
Best wishes and thanks again

You are right about labelling processing aids, it is not necessary unless they comprise or contain allergenic materials. Most Vine Fruit processors use an industry standard dressing oil, Durkex 500NG, to prevent the fruit from clumping into a solid mass during transit or storage in 12.5kg cartons. The oil is present at less than 0.5% and is supplied by Loders Croklaan who hold their cards very close to the chest and will only describe it as "A Non-Lauric Vegetable Oil". However this supplier has in the past advertised themselves as "The Global Source for Palm Oil" so I leave you to draw your own conclusions. The NG suffix indicates Non Genetically Modified and there may be some conflict of ideals between non GM and freedom from Palm.
Hope this helps

Many thanks for the information. I placed an order a short time ago avoiding any using vine fruits and was pleased to receive my order of Mornflake cereals yesterday. I have just enjoyed the Granny Smith Oat Crisp Cereal and also tried the Oatbran Flakes, both are really enjoyable.
I note that the Granny Smith Apple Oat Crisp Cereal has vegetable oil listed in the ingredients. Can you reassure me that the vegetable oil is not palm oil, please?
Many thanks,

Sorry to disappoint you but the vegetable oil used for all our Crunchy cereals is currently Palm Oil because it gives the best biscuit-like texture. We are currently considering the green palm scheme (see www.greenpalm.org) but until prices etc have stabilised we are staying with current suppliers.

First the good news

My Mornflake package arrived yesterday and so no more cornflakes! The Granny Smith Apple Oat Crisp Cereal is really nice and I enjoyed it every bit as much as I used to Special K. I have also tasted the Oatbran Flakes and they too are much nicer than cornflakes.

I was a bit alarmed though to see vegetable oil in the list of ingredients. Mornflake's manufacturers assured me "None of the products we make contain palm oil". When pressed on the raisins in their muesli (after what Weetabix Ltd told me) they admitted that yes, they were processed (not by them) using palm oil. So, I thought that the rest of their products were safe for me to use. I have e-mailed them this morning asking for reassurance that the vegetable oil isn't palm oil. I really hope it isn't.

I got a response from Weetabix Ltd, they sent me a list of their products which are palm oil free and in answer to my criticism that they are not members of RSPO:
"We are a very small user of Palm Oil and do not buy it directly ourselves. We actively seek to pursue RSPO policies and we make sure our suppliers are members, or they obtain their supplies of Palm Oil from members, of the RSPO. "

I have to commend Weetabix, I think they have been the most open, honest and transparent in their e-mail dealings with me. The Mornflake manufacturers only came clean about raisins when I pressed them, I really hope that pressing them on the vegetable oil in one of their products won't have a similar admission. I'm going to be trying some of the following products from Weetabix which are palm oil free:

Alpen Light bar chocolate and orange
Alpen Light bars chocolate and fudge
Oaty Bars Milk Chocolate
Weetabix Organic
Weetabix Bitesize
Weetabix Minis Honey and Nut Crisp
Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp
Oatibix Bites
Oatibix Bites
Ready brek Original
Ready brek Chocolate
Ready brek Honey
Crunchy Bran
Weetos Meteors
Weetos Cereal Bar
Oatibix flakes

I also got a long response from Tesco in more depth about the products they carry and palm oil. This one is more considered. They are recent members of RSPO and are
"currently in lengthy discussions with our suppliers, to identify how we can all work together to achieve the goal of a genuinely sustainable supply of Palm Oil, and over which time scale."

I hope this will be quicker than Sainsbury's policy which is 2015 (we'll have lost an immeasurable amount of rainforest by then!)

Now the BAD NEWS. I have cancelled my order with Weleda. After I blogged yesterday, I had a thought about what Lush were doing about palm oil and I discovered that they changed to a non-palm oil base for their soaps about two years ago.

I did a bit more digging and although their products are virtually palm oil free now, they still use sodium stearate and sodium laurel/lauryl (don't know the correct spelling of that, I've seen it in many places as both). Both of these contain traces of palm oil or are derived from it and are made by third parties. So, I put two and two together in my head and ask myself if Weleda also use these things. I look in their list of ingredients of some of the items that I purchased and lo and behold they do!

Further, I investigated one more of the list of ingredients "glyceryl stearate" and that is also derived from palm oil. I went back over my e-mails with them and whilst they haven't out and out lied about palm oil, they KNOW what I was asking when I asked about labelling of palm oil. They confirmed that palm oil was labelled as sodium palmate on their products but they failed to tell me that other ingredients might have palm oil in them. I consider this, if not dishonest, it is extremely economical with the truth. I have cancelled my order and am now back to square one on the toiletries front.

I stopped using Lush products after reading that their founder funds that Plane Stupid organisation that disrupted Heathrow last year but I think I might forgive him if he is taking steps to get the other ingredients out of his products. I'll write tomorrow. I've had enough writing for today.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Toiletries update

I've just had to have cornflakes again for breakfast. As you know, I don't really like cornflakes that much. I normally have sliced banana on my cereal but this morning we had some blueberries with it. They're usually too expensive to buy regularly but when they're on special offer, I do enjoy them as a change. With a glass of orange juice or grapefruit juice, that's two out of my five fruits/vegetables. Geoff is getting some Alpen for himself until the Mornflake stuff arrives.

I ordered my toiletries from Weleda yesterday. They have free delivery over £40, but it's very easy to spend that much, in fact my bill came to over £70. I have purchased toothpaste, Bidor painkillers for my headaches, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream (not for me!) face and body cream plus some almond oil products purely because I liked the tin! (I am a bit of a tin collector - I keep my bead supplies in them). The products are all quite expensive compared with the ones I used to get from Tesco but these things all last quite a long time. If I were buying them every week, then it would be a big cost of living increase for me.

I'll be using up the products we have in the bathroom rather than waste them, the damage has already been done with those - the point of this exercise is to reduce my future demand for palm oil.

I checked the ingredients lists for each of the Weleda products and the only ones I wanted to buy but didn't were the soap bars as they have palm oil in (albeit from a sustainable source). I have some palm oil free soap on order from the Orangutan Foundation. I will compare them with using the Weleda body wash lotion and see which I prefer. I am a bar soap person myself.

So, providing I like the above products, on the toiletries front I've solved virtually all the problems except deoderant. I use roll on, I can't use aerosols at all, they give me headaches and make me dizzy and all unreal/phased out kind of thing (so how would you tell the difference do I hear you say??!!!)

So yesterday afternoon after ordering, I went on the Dove website and posed this question on their on-line forum:
I currently use two Dove products, the soap which is great for keeping my eczema at bay and your roll on deoderant. However, I've recently become concerned about palm oil usage and I understand that your soap contains this. Do you do any alternatives that palm oil free, please? Can you confirm that the roll on is palm oil free too, the ingredients list is a little small to read. Thanks.

I'll let you know if I get a response. I'm interested to see if they let the posting remain.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Some replies

We had a Customer Query with Tesco over the weekend and so we chased them up for a reply about our earlier enquiry on palm oil usage in Tesco products and got the following extremely pathetic response:
In regards to Palm Oil I am afraid that I do not have any in depth knowledge
as to what products contain Palm Oil.

Waleda have confirmed that where their products use sustainable palm oil, it is labelled as Sodium Palmate (another one for the list!) I think I'll order some toiletries from them but avoid any containing Sodium Palmate, even though they say they only use sustainable palm oil, I did some research yesterday about it.

The WWF are questioning the dedication of RSPO's commitment to sustainable palm oil in this article. The article mentions that the WWF are spending the next six months researching and will be producing a 'Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard', ranking the commitment and actions of major global retailers, manufacturers and traders. That will be really helpful in the future but at the moment, I'm still on my own having to write to individual companies personally.

I found this Facebook forum posting particularly compelling:
"... even though some companies source their palm oil from plantations that have been around for 30 years or more, these same plantations have staff that will kill orangutans on sight. I worked in an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Kalimantan for two years and all to often we would receive calls from palm oil planatation workers to come and rescue infant orangutans whose mothers had been killed by the same workers. These stories were the best case scenarios - there were much worse. As far as I am concerned very few palm oil plantations, if any, can label themselves sustainable or cruelty free."

No response from the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Last of the Alpen gone

Just had my breakfast. In the cupboard, we had half a packet of Kellogs Cornflakes (palm oil free) and enough for one bowl of Alpen. I prefer Alpen but as their raisins are processed using Palm Oil, it's out for me so my husband, Geoff, had the rest of that as it's lower in salt. I don't really like Cornflakes but have dutifully eaten them - must find something else soon!

Morflake have written back to confirm that none of the products they make contain palm oil (hurray!) but they acknowledge that
"Most Vine Fruit processors use an industry standard dressing oil, Durkex 500NG, to prevent the fruit from clumping into a solid mass during transit or storage in 12.5kg cartons. The oil is present at less than 0.5% and is supplied by Loders Croklaan who hold their cards very close to the chest and will only describe it as 'A Non-Lauric Vegetable Oil'. However this supplier has in the past advertised themselves as 'The Global Source for Palm Oil' so I leave you to draw your own conclusions."

So I've decided that anything containing dried vine fruits are out for me. I have therefore ordered three of the Mornflake products that don't contain dried vine fruits:
and hope that I like them better than Cornflakes. Only one product in the Mornflake range is carried by Tesco which is convenient shopping for me. I have decided to write to a couple of other breakfast cereal companies which are carried by Tesco and see what they say about their products. But not today, Friday is a much too busy day for me to spend any more time on this.

I got a response from Waleda which confirms that they only use sustainable palm oil in their products but they didn't state how it's labelled so I can identify it. I think from looking at their ingredients it's "sodium palmate" but I have written back for confirmation.

I'm compiling a list of the euphemisms that companies use on their labels for palm oil - this will become a permanent list in the blog as a widget (again something to do for the future). In the meantime, here are the ones that I have read about during my research. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the information as I've only got it from websites but if anyone knows any better, let me know! I'm just an ordinary person trying to reduce the demand for palm oil that my personal buying choices make.

cocoa butter equivalent (CBE)
cocoa butter substitute (CBE)
palm olein
palm stearine

cetyl alcohol
elaeis guineensis
fatty alcohol sulphates
sodium lauryl sulphate
stearic acid

The fact that sodium lauryl sulphate is in the above list and yet the vine fruit processor says that it uses a non-lauric vegetable oil ... does that mean it ISN'T palm oil? Surely they would have nothing to hide if it isn't though - confusing! When is palm oil not palm oil - this needs to be much clearer on product labelling.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Still hunting breakfast cereal

Today's half hour has been on the net researching breakfast cereal. I found this site, Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers and their stated aim is "to provide easily accessible information on breakfast cereals and the breakfast cereal industry". So to save me writing to each and every manufacturer about their palm oil usage, I have asked them if they know of any tasty breakfast cereal that is palm oil free.

I visited a few of the manufacturer sites on their links pages to see if any of them declare their palm oil use on their websites. I thought the Mornflake one looked interesting and as they have a muesli section, their products might be hopeful.

No responses from other e-mails sent earlier in the week. It's the Tesco one that I'm particularly looking out for as that's where I buy the majority of my groceries at the moment.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Might be getting somewhere on the toiletries front

I did say I was going to try and get what I eat to be palm oil free first but I think I might stand a better chance on my toiletries. I'm trying to limit myself to half an hour a day to this "crusade" for letter/e-mails and blog entries, but so far I've been reading on-line stuff for about an hour so have broken that pledge already! This is something I feel very strongly about (and I'm also putting off mowing the lawn ...!)

On this web page, Weleda's Bas Scheneiders claims that "Weleda was among the first companies convert to a sustainable organic certified source for our palm oil". I've e-mailed the company to confirm that this is still the case. I'd prefer no palm oil at all as there is quite a bit of negativity about how sustainable sustainable really is when it comes to palm oil. I have therefore asked how the sustainable palm oil is labelled on their products so I can choose palm oil free ones completely if I want to. I'll let you know when I get a reply.

I do hope the response is positive as I can buy toothpaste, soap, skin care products, shampoo etc. from one company and this will save me lots of time e-mailing all the toiletries companies I presently use as I can just do a wholesale shift of product purchases with a clear conscience. I need to find a way to wash clothes next.

In the meantime, I have joined the Orangutan Foundation and ordered a couple of their palm oil free soaps as another positive step forward.


From the list in the Independent, I realised I was going to have to change my bread, my margarine and my breakfast cereal.

Instead of Flora margarine, I'm now buying anchor spreadable which is OK according to the Independent, I trust that they've done their research and so I have a result already - one product palm oil free.

Instead of Kellogs Special K, I bought Cornflakes but I don't really like them as much. Plus the salt content is quite high and my other half needs to watch his salt intake. So, I need an alternative. My other half came home with some Alpen. He'd already scrutinised the list of ingredients and it appeared clear of palm oil. I e-mailed Weetabix Ltd just to be sure and this is an extract of their reply:
"Palm Oil is used in some of our products, however, we are working with our suppliers to ensure that the Palm Oil is sourced from members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
The raisins in Alpen are sprayed with a small amount of oil as a processing aid and this does not require labelling in the ingredients list as it is a processing aid. It is currently derived from Palm Oil therefore we cannot say that Alpen is free from Palm Oil at the present time. "

I've seen the RSPO website and went to check whether Weetabix Ltd are Retailer members of RSPO and they aren't (so I've replied and asked why they aren't). I've also told them that their response doesn't give any timescales for becoming palm oil free or sourcing only from sustainable palm oil sources and I wanted to know when.

I've also e-mailed Kellogs and told them why I've stopped buying their products. I also asked if there are any alternatives in their range which are palm oil free for me to try.

I'm putting bread aside for a bit whilst I solve the breakfast cereal problem. I have a busy life and have to tackle this one product at a time. I've read elsewhere that it's virtually impossible to find palm oil free bread, unless you make it yourself (which may in the end be what I decide to do).

Where I'm coming from

I've seen programmes about clearance of rainforest and was aware the destruction was for something called palm oil. I don't know why but I always assumed this was just used in expensive cosmetics and hence I didn't really use it but when this article in the Independent appeared, I realise that my consumer money has been fuelling the demand for palm oil and I had been deluding myself about my own culpability for many years.

I was angry, really angry that I make my contributions monthly to animal charities, dutifully send off donations when they have campaigns for specific items (when I can afford it) but what is the point of that if I've been encouraging the production of cheap palm oil by my consumer choices and these companies have been taking my money whilst encouraging the rainforest to be torn down and making animals like orangutans homeless.

I started reading labels immediately and trying to change what I purchased starting with what I eat and the first meal of the day - breakfast. After only a few days and just a couple of products, I've realised it's not very easy.