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 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 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.