While palm oil is found in more than half of all supermarket products from biscuits and breakfast cereals to soap, 35% of consumers are unaware of what it is, a survey of 5,000 people commissioned by frozen food chain Iceland found.
But once informed about palm oil and its effects on the environment, 85% say they do not believe it should be used in food products.
Growing demand for palm oil for use in food, toiletries and biofuel has helped fuel widespread deforestation in south-east Asia, prompting industry efforts to promote “sustainable” palm oil which is not environmentally damaging.
The loss of rainforests also contributes significantly to the world’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.
According to Palm Oil Investigations, Indonesia is being deforested faster than any other country in the world, and this is down to the effects of palm oil.
The cheapest and quickest way to clear land for plantations is slash and burn. Fires in Indonesia produce some of the world’s worst pollution, sending suffocating smog to cities hundreds of miles away in Malaysia and Singapore.
Iceland’s Mr Walker said: “Having recently been to Indonesia and seen the environmental devastation caused by expanding palm oil production first hand, I feel passionately about the importance of raising awareness of this issue – and I know many British consumers share my concern and want to have a real choice about what they buy.”
“Time is running out not just for these household brands but for the wildlife, the climate and everyone who depends on healthy forests for their survival.
The main threat to the survival of orangutan populations in the wild is the huge expansion of palm oil plantations on the tropical islands of Borneo and Sumatra, with methods such as slash and burn being used to clear the land, driving the orangutans from their habitats.
One study published in the journal Current Biology earlier this year found that half of Bornean orangutans were affected by logging, deforestation, or industrialised plantations, with 100,000 lost between 1999 and 2015. According to research the population of orangutans in Borneo has dropped by 80% in 75 years.
What Is Palm Oil?
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