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Easter chocolate report: watch out, palm oil about

palm oil and chocolate

Watch what you eat this Easter, ethical shoppers (and we don’t mean calorie counting). Jess Noble explains.

Chocolate brands Cadbury and Lindt monopolize the Easter chocolate market in OZ, but what the average supermarket consumer doesn’t know is that some of the most popular chocolate contains environmentally harmful untraceable palm oil, including some products from both these giants.

I was one of those spoilt kids that would give my parents a chocolate wish list at Easter. No matter how much Mum tried to nudge me down carob row, I was all about my white-chocolate Lindt balls.

The 8-year-old version of me didn’t know or care what ingredients were mixed together inside that golden bonbon nor the impact my consumption was having on a scale bigger than my own gut. Today, Lindt balls are absent from my Easter shopping list – and it’s not because I’m dairy intolerant. It’s because all Lindt soft filled chocolates contain untraceable palm oil.

The Issue With Palm Oil

Palm oil is present in up to 50% of the products found on supermarket shelves. Palm oil is a valuable ingredient for manufacturers, and its use is on the rise due to its versatility. Around 85% of global palm oil production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. According to the United Nations, unethical palm oil plantations are the main cause of permanent rainforest loss. These plantations also threaten the existence of endangered animals like orangutans and Sumatran tigers.

Hope is not lost. Certified sustainable palm oil is a growing alternative. Companies that use certified sustainable palm oil  provide consumers with environementally friendly options. This palm oil is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. They use guidelines and criteria that were developed to prevent deforestation, habitat loss and social conflict.

Where it gets complicated is the name. Palm oil isn’t always listed as such on product labels. Other aliases like ‘vegetable oil’ and ‘vegetable fat’ are often used. There are over 100 other names used for the oil, depending on how it’s processed.

Palm Oil in Food

Many Australians not only care about the use of untraceable palm oil  but take action to complain, or avoid products that contain it. In 2013, both Woolworths and Coles were busted selling hot cross buns with palm oil in them, somewhat disguised on the ingredients list as ‘Vegetable Oil (Palm)’. Customers and the general public were horrified and social media rallied up against the supermarket giants. Public relations teams went into repair mode and Woolies and Coles are now members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. They promise to use only traceable palm oil (also known as sustainable palm oil) in all home-brand products from now on.

But let’s be honest here, come Easter morning no one cares about hot cross buns. It’s about the chocolate. And while the healthy option is usually not on our Easter wish lists, the ethical option can be. Below is a list of the major brands stocking chocolate eggs this Easter in Australia. Together with Palm Oil Investigates, we found out which chocolate brands are using certified sustainable palm oil. They’re provided below to help you make the ethical choice.

Chocolate Brands That Use Untraceable Palm Oil

  • Lindt – Chocolates with soft fillings contain untraceable palm oil. Chocolate without soft fillings do not.
  • Cadbury – All chocolates with soft fillings (a la mini Crème Eggs) contain untraceable palm oil. Those without soft fillings do not.
    • Note:  It is not known if untraceable palm oil is used in the large Cadbury crème eggs. The ingredients changed in 2014 and Cadbury has not responded to Otter’s enquiries.
    • Brands Using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (with a strict no deforestation policy)

Chocolate Brands Using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (with a strict no deforestation policy)

  • Coles Brand
  • Kinder
  • Fererro Rocher
  • Woolworths Brand
  • MARS
  • Nestle

Chocolate Brands That Are 100% Palm Oil Free

  • Sweet William
  • Haig’s Chocolates
  • Sanchurro
  • Organic Times
  • Sweet As Easter Bunnies (also dairy free)

Should I favour Sustainable Palm Oil or Avoid it Altogether?

In a previous Otter article, Darian McBain, The WWF’s Austalia’s Sustainable Palm Oil Manager answers this question. There’s no doubt that non sustainable, untraceable palm oil causes devastation to the environment with particular impacts on climate change and endangered species. She states that the way forward is to demand that manufactures use certified sustainable palm oil. This is because palm oil has a higher yield than other vegetable oils, meaning that production requires less land use. If the demand to use other vegetable oils, land degradation could get worse.

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