Monday, 28 June 2010

Temporary slow down on campaigning for now

I have been meaning to write the letters I blogged about in my last posting but I'm afraid I haven't got round to it. I am now about to start the busiest two months of the year for my business with the exception of the run up to Christmas so I'll be quiet for a while in here. I'll be ramping up my letter and e-mail writing again in September and October so see you then.

On a positive note, husband Geoff is now using No Flakin' Way shampoo and it seems to be working for the time being so fingers crossed on that one.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Handwash and beef update

I bought some more handwash from L'Occitane yesterday and this reminded me that I haven't had either an e-mail response or a reply to my snail mail letter to them. I have only heard third hand through anecdotal evidence that most of their ranges are palm oil free. So, when making my purchase I asked the shop assistant if she could confirm the UK head office address. After a brief discussion of why I wanted it, she brought the Manager over who was surprised to hear I hadn't had any reply. She wrote the address down and told me that if I still didn't get any response to pop back in and she would take it up with her Regional Manager.

We had a discussion about the ethics of the company and I understand that they do try to be ethical and she said that she was certain that if they do use palm oil in any product it will be sustainable. I expressed my doubts about sustainable palm oil and I think she understood my position on zero-tolerance being the only thing that is going to stop palm oil producers ripping the forest up.

I'm afraid I forgot (again) to go into Boots yesterday to see if they stock the No Flakin' Way shampoo (we haven't run out of Head & Shoulders so not urgent at the moment).

I have however, received a response from Sainsbury's which I'm both happy with and unhappy about! On their own-brand anti-dandruff shampoo, two ingredients may be derived from palm oil (they don't say which two) but anyway, they can't say it's palm oil free so I won't be using that.

On dishwasher tablets, the Sainsbury's own brand do NOT contain any palm oil so am switching to those from Finish as I still haven't heard from Reckitt & Benckiser about theirs.

On the beef, the letter contains this paragraph:
I have contacted our technologists and received the following information. The palm oil is used on the beef to soften the fat at lower temperatures and this ensures the beef is malleable when it is being used. There are few oils which perform well at low temperatures, and we are currently looking for alternatives

I'm happy that they're looking for alternatives, but not happy that they're using palm oil to make the beef malleable (for malleable, I interpret this as tender). As we in Britain have been eating beef for thousands of years without palm oil, it seems daft to be including it now when palm oil has only really started to come to the fore for food use in the last decade (due to all the furore a few years ago about trans fats). As was mentioned in the comments section when I first raised this, the maturation process should tenderise the meat anyway. Nope, can't let them get away with that so will be writing another letter just to make that point.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Johnson & Johnson have sent me a useless e-mail response saying that they have lots of different countries that they sell their products in so I need to contact my local office. They've only given me a telephone number for their UK office. I hate making phone calls, but if I remember during office hours, I will ring them for an e-mail or snail mail address to write to concerning their Neutrogena T/Gel Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. I forgot to go into Boots on Saturday to see if they stock No Flakin' Way.

Sainsbury's have written me a polite holding letter concerning the palm oil they added to the silverside joint of beef and promise to come back to me within 5 days.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Anti-dandruff update

After using the Hopes anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner since we received them, I'm afraid to report that Geoff's dandruff is back and so I'll finish those products off and he'll have no choice but to go back to Head & Shoulders if we can't find something else that works. I had thought to get him the No Flakin' Way that Laura mentioned in one of her comments. Sainsbury's don't seem to carry it on their website, they list 29 Clairol Herbal Essences products but not No Flakin' Way and for sheer convenience, it would be handy if I could buy it with my weekly on-line shop but I'll pop into Boots next week when I'm in Cambridge and see if they have it.

Sainsbury's do carry Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena T/Gel Anti-Dandruff Shampoo so I've written to J&J via their website asking whether it contains palm oil or palm oil derived products.

Whilst searching Sainsbury's site, I noticed that they now have an own brand of dishwasher tablets and in the absence (still) of a response from Reckitt Benckiser, at the same time as writing to them about the extraordinary use of palm oil in the silverside beef joint, I've asked Sainsbury's about that product as well.

As usual, responses will be posted here.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Beef joints for vegetarians?

I've been meaning to post this for a while as you can probably tell from the "Best By" date on this joint of beef. You can't read the ingredients list very well but here's what it says underneath "small silverside with added basting fat":
Beef (87%), Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil

I really have to take Sainsbury's to task over this. I can understand them adding fat to a lean cut of beef so it stays moister during cooking but why would you add vegetable fat to a joint of meat?

It can't be to try and persude vegetarians to try eating beef and I hope I don't have to explain why I don't think this can't be the case!

It can't be on the grounds of cost because it must be cheaper when butchering the cow to use fat from the animal itself.

It can't be on the grounds of health because last time I looked into it, the World Health Organisation reported that Palm Oil wasn't particularly healthy compared to other kinds of fats.

It can't be on the grounds of fewer air miles because this was a UK Farm Assured joint and Palm Oil trees only thrive in the tropics so why on earth has Sainsbury's done this?!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Odd characters

I occasionally get comments on this blog that don't make it to the comments section as I reject them. They're usually really general, don't relate to my posting, don't really say anything and are anonymous, all of them include characters looking like this:

I'm assuming that my computer is substituting something else for a font that I don't have on my pc and I'm guessing that it's for a foreign language but I was wondering if anyone knew for sure? I reject them as I think they're just spam but I do wonder if I might be wrong.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Updates - shampoo/conditioner, Hob Brite

The anti-dandruff shampoo and a couple of other palm oil free products (conditioner and dry skin moisturiser) I blogged about a few days ago have arrived from Health Monthly. The smell of them isn't unpleasant, very neutral (which means my husband won't moan about whiffing of girly-stuff like he does with some of the Lush soap I buy! But I wouldn't describe it as pleasant either.

Anyway, if the anti-dandruff shampoo works on Geoff and in the absence of a response from Proctor & Gamble, it will mean one less suspected product removed from our cupboards for good.

I chased P&G up a couple of weeks ago about Head & Shoulders shampoo as well as Fairy Liquid, Oil of Olay
and Flash One for All. If I don't get a reply soon, I think it's safe to assume they're ignoring me in the same way as Unilever are and therefore all those products will not be purchased again. Actually, whilst they've been delaying, I started buying Sainsbury's washing up liquid as they were really quick to let me know that it was palm oil free. I'm also using Little Satsuma's moisturiser on my face so if Proctor and Gamble are indeed ignoring me, I only really need to replace Flash One for All.

I chased up Reckitt Benckiser at the same time; they they have responded as follows:

Thank you for your e-mail.

I am waiting to hear from the relevant department so I can pass the correct information onto you Ms Doran.

As soon as I have an answer I will be in contact with you.

I'll let you know when they do.

On Hob Brite, I have received a further letter from Homecare Technology who make it.

Thank you for your recent letter in which you have listed the chemicals that can contain palm oil or are derived from palm oil.

The production staff has looked over the list to see which products are used here in our manufacturing plant and there are four items that we do purchase; none of which are used in Hob Brite

For your information they are:

Caprylyl glycol
Mono-glycerides of fatty acids
Sodium Laureth Sulfate

So, it sounds as if Hob Brite may well be palm oil free. The reason I'm not 100% sure is that they have ignored the concern that I raised in my letter stating that if my list of euphemisms for palm oil/palm oil derivatives is not complete, there may be other suspect ingredients that are contained in Hob Brite that I'm just not aware of yet. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt though (as well as that, I haven't found anything else that does a good job except for Cif which Unilever won't tell me about).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Another problem of deforestation

Queue of doggies for the looThis is a hilarious picture! The artist, whoever you are, deserves much credit for highlighting a serious problem in such a funny manner!

It came to me via one of those e-mail circulars that find their way round mailboxes.

I wish I knew who to credit with the copyright for the image; I wouldn't normally dream of using an image without permission but as I am spreading the word about the cause that s/he is highlighting and that must be the reason it was created, I am hoping they won't mind. Whoever are you, I applaud and admire your work!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Homecare response

Homecare Technology who make Hob Brite have sent a response to my enquiry:

Thank you for your letter dated 7 March regarding Palm Oil.

I have spoken with our production team and can confirm that we do not use Palm OIl in any of our products. The ingredients used in Hob Brite are sources from third party companies and as such we are not able to giveyou an unequivocal statement, but can say that as far as we are aware they are also free from Palm Oil.

Hope this information is helpful.

I'm afraid it isn't really because I don't know whether I can continue to use Hob Brite or not. I have written back to them giving them the long list of ingredients that may be palm oil derived and asking them to check their ingredients list and then ask the third parties.

I have pointed out that Sainsbury's and Tesco are both willing to provide unequivocal yes or no statements concerning palm oil in their own brand products and I am hopeful that Homecare Technology will be willing to do the same.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Anti-dandruff shampoo update

I have received a response from Body and Soul Health products (who make Hopes Relief products) saying that their anti-dandruff shampoo (recommended by Donna in the comments section on my last posting about anti-dandruff shampoo) saying that it doesn't contain palm oil. I have therefore ordered some from UK supplier Health Monthly. I've never heard of this company but they take PayPal so I've ordered some on-line. As I haven't had to give them my financial details, I'm willing to trust them for the cost of a bottle of shampoo.

I'll let you know how Geoff gets on with it.

No response yet from Proctor & Gamble or Reckitt Benckiser to my latest communications. I will chase them in a couple of days.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Proctor & Gamble reply

I have received a response from Proctor & Gamble which contains all the usual generalisations about sustainable palm oil and how they buy it. Worryingly, they only say most of their palm oil suppliers are members of the RSPO so I guess if they get caught with some that isn't they can say "oh yes, just that bit isn't sustainable".

I'm no great believer that palm oil can be grown sustainably anyway all the time demand continues to rise so much - where is the new palm oil going to come from to fuel the proposed EU increase from 5% to 10% in biofuels sustainability criteria?

All it means is that responsible companies will buy the sustainable palm oil, leaving the rest for those with no scruples. It's not good enough to pat ourselves on the back and say ours is sustainable so we don't have to worry about it anymore. It's unacceptable that the rainforest is continuing to decline even though every single company that I write to claims to either already be buying sustainable palm oil or will be doing by 2015. Rainforest is still disappearing. We have to raise our game if it's going to stop.

Anyway, the response from P&G is very similar to that of Reckitt Benckiser - no individual answers about the products I buy. They give me a website address and invite me to investigate the list ingredients to establish whether the products contain palm oil. I will write a similar response to P&G and hope that in the interests of customer services, they will be prepared to give me a yes or no for the products that I buy.

L'Occitane haven't replied to my e-mail so I've had to snail mailed them as well. If they would only reply using e-mail, it would save paper - I shouldn't have to send letters using paper in this day and age - for goodness sake, L'Occitane - join the 21st Century! Paper use is another cause of rainforest decline.

Do I sound irritated? That's because I am :-(

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sainsbury's household products

As I reported here, I wrote to Sainbsury's asking them about the palm oil content of all the household products that I thought I could buy from them to replace any ones that are already (or subsequently become) suspect. Here are the products I asked them about:
  • Sainsbury’s Antibacterial Spray Cleaner
  • Sainsbury’s Washing Up Liquid Lemon
  • Sainsbury’s 2 in 1 Tablets Lavender and Jasmine (for clothes washing)
  • Sainsbury’s Tablet Bio (for clothes washing)
  • Sainsbury’s Tablets Non Bio (for clothes washing)
  • Sainsbury’s Bathroom Cleaner Trigger Spray
  • Sainsbury’s Oven Cleaner
I received a response in the post from Sainsbury's which happily informs me that none of these items contain palm oil or its derivatives.

I have looked again at the Reckitt Benckiser reply, basically, they have just given me a link to a site which lists the products they sell in the UK and you can find a list of ingredients for each one by drilling down. But it's up to me to check whether the ingredients are palm oil or derivatives.

As people who have been reading this blog for a while will realise, manufacturers can be very coy about calling palm oil "palm oil" and use any number of different euphemisms (see the extremely long list to the left!) Plus many of the items are derived from oil, but doesn't have to necessarily be palm oil. So if I find any of the ingredients listed on the website correspond with the list of euphemisms, then I will have to get back to Reckitt Benckiser to find out if those derivatives are from palm oil or some other oil like (for example) coconut oil. Seems a lot of work for me to do (there are eight products on my Reckitt Benckiser list as as Laura found out, it takes ages just to check one single product) Why do these companies have Customer Services departments if they don't provide any kind of service other than a purely perfunctory one?

Sainbsury's and Tesco and many other suppliers are happy to do the checking of their own brand products for their customers and say yes or no, I think if Reckitt Benckiser want me to continue to use their products, they need to do the work and tell me if the products I'm interested in are palm oil free. I have written to them to that effect to give them a final chance to retain my custom on the products that I buy from them:
  • Windowlene original
  • Brasso
  • Cillit Bang Power Cleaner Grime & Lime
  • Dettol Anti-bacterial surface cleaner
  • Dettol Anti-bacterial surface cleaner
  • Finish Powerball
  • Vanish Pre-Wash Stain Stick
  • Vanish Stain Remover Pre-Wash
Some of these products, I am happy to just do without if have to. If I don't get a positive response from Reckitt Benckiser, I'm going to have to do some research on alternative brands of dishwasher tablets because Sainsbury's don't have an own brand on those.

Still haven't heard from Homecare Products about Hob Brite, I've e-mailed them twice now 22 November and 14 February with no reply - time to resort to snail mail!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Anti dandruff shampoo

My husband has had to go back to using Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo as the Lush anti-dandruff shampoo block and the Elemis shampoo that I use aren't keeping on top of his dry scalp (if you know what I mean!) I've written to Proctor & Gamble who make Head & Shoulders but from the list of ingredients (which contain the usual suspects), I'm pretty certain it isn't palm oil free. Plus an e-mail correspondent has reminded me that there are more reasons than Palm oil to buoycot P&G due to their animal testing.

So I'm on the lookout for anti-dandruff shampoo that works. I remember finding a company in Australia that did one but none of their suppliers have on-line ordering and arranging an order wasn't straightforward. It is a long way to go for shampoo! Anyway, I remembered reading recently one of the comments on which said that L'Occitane's ranges (except for those containing shea butter) are palm oil free so I've written to L'Occitane using their on-line form asking them to confirm if this is the case for the following of their products that I'm interested in:
  • Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp
  • Verbena Cleansing Hand Wash
  • Lavender Foaming Bath
There's a L'Occitane on Rose Crescent in Cambridge (just round the corner from my stall on the Craft Market) so it would be very convenient for me to buy there. Their products are quite pricey but I am willing to pay more for effective products that are palm oil free.

Sainsbury's letter

I've written a letter today to Sainsbury's. Firstly letting them know that I have switched my on-line purchasing to them instead of Tesco and congratulating them on their superior WWF Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard rating. Secondly, I've listed several household cleaning products which I think I may want to use from their own label brand and asked if any contain palm oil or palm oil derivities.

Even Tesco were prepared to research each own brand product I asked about and let me know yes or no. With Sainsbury's much better labelling policies, I am hopeful they will be willing to let me know.

Any response will be reported here.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Proctor and Gamble have an address on the back of their products so I can write to them there about their 4-5 products in my cupboards - yay! (I hate using the phone!) But, I know when the Independent pressed them for information about palm oil, they didn't say anything so I don't know if li'l ole me will get on any better. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, enjoy this photograph of my angel wings fairy cakes (made by my own fair hand and palm oil free!)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Dying for a biscuit

Panorama have a programme on this evening in the UK (BBC1 8.30pm) which highlights palm oil and the devastation it is causing to the rainforest and wildlife.

The region in which it was recently filmed is one which Hardi (Centre for Orangutan Protection) and Nature Alert have been shouting 'emergency - please help' to everyone for a long time, particularly governments and the media. Panorama went to West Kalimantan because of this.

Please watch it if you can.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Some replies

Ronseal tell me that Colron Liquid Beeswax in antique pine contains no palm oil or palm oil derivatives.

Jeyes tell me that they don't use palm oil in any of their products and specifically confirm that Parazone Citrus thick bleach doesn't contain any. Unilever won't tell me if Domestos contains palm oil or not. I therefore view it as suspect and am switching to Parazone from now on.

Mykal Industries tell me that no palm oil is used in the manufacture of their Sticky Stuff Remover which is useful for getting labels off bottles when I'm recycling them into glass beads so that's a relief. They go on to say that they use citrus oil as the key ingredient which provides the excellent anti-adhesive effect of their product. Furthermore, no palm oil is used in any of their retail products.

I have received a policy statement from Reckett Benckiser but they haven't responded individually about the products I asked about. They link to a website which they say has ingredients for Dettol products so I'll do more research and possibly write to them again before posting information about their products.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Still on the household products trail

I have sent out a raft of e-mails to various companies on my long list of the products under my kitchen sink that I purchase for cleaning the house etc. I'll log any responses here.

Some of the products I use are made by Proctor & Gamble but they make it very difficult to contact them in writing either by e-mail or letter. I tried going to the individual product websites, where one exists, but they were exactly the same. I did finally find a form to fill in but they wanted all kinds of information like date of birth which isn't relevant to such an enquiry and is powerful information for people who want to steal your identity so I declined to continue on that line of enquiry. I need to make time to telephone them at some point during the day on the number that they give. I'd prefer a written response but needs must.

I'm still using Vecon vegetable stock, which is confirmed as palm oil free. It doesn't seem to be stocked by supermarkets, certainly not Tescos or Sainsbury's. I've been getting it from Holland & Barratt in Cambridge - but we find it a bit salty and as my husband has high blood pressure, we need to keep his sodium intake within sensible limits.

I noticed that Sainsbury's sell "Very Low Salt Vegetable Stock cubes" made by Kallo Foods. I wrote to them last week but I just got a one-liner reply stating "We would like to inform you that this product is made using palm fat". Not even a policy statement on sustainable palm oil! Very disappointing. We'll keep going with the Vecon but have to use it sparingly. In the meantime, I'll keep an eye out for other palm oil free stock cubes.

Good news on the dumplings front, Atora The Original contains only beef dripping and wheat flour so I can use that instead of the mixes that are based on vegetable fat (and probably therefore palm oil). After a very cold day of being snowed, sleeted and rained on manning my stall at Cambridge Art & Craft market yesterday, I tried some dumplings made using the straightforward recipe on the side of the packet with beef stew and they were delicious! Not very healthy but comforting and warm - an occasional mid-winter treat - a little of what you fancy, does you good :-)