Mrs. Fields Cookies Passes the Buck — While Sumatran Forests Burn for Palm Oil

Mrs. Fields.jpg

I love Mrs. Fields cookies — until I read they contain palm oil. Well, with the orang deaths in the Tripa swamp area of the Aceh Province this week, I couldn’t help but post these replies from Mrs. Fields.

First, I just wrote them my standard, “what’s your policy on palm oil use?” email. This is what they sent on February 2:

Thank you for contacting us. Palm oil is a constituent of the margarine which is used in some of our products. The margarine is a palm/soybean oil blend which is used to maintain the quality of the product during shipping. I have checked the specification sheet and it does not list the type of palm or the country of origin. In the case of commodities such vegetable oils the country of origin could vary from season to season. In addition the ration of palm oil to soybean oil will also vary depending on the price of the individual oil.
As a general rule our company uses butter rather than margarine. However in some cases we do use margarine because it allows us to provide the highest quality product to our customer. As a result the company is an extremely small user of palm and soybean oil.

So, like many corporations, they say they: a) use only a microscopic amount of overall palm oil use (but that adds up, yes?); and b) do this to preserve quality for the consumer, as if doing us a favor. But here Mrs. Fields does something slightly different — they actually pass the buck to their margarine supplier. Read the final coda:

If you have further questions I would recommend that you contact our primary supplier of margarine to further express your concerns:
Ventura Foods
40 Pointe Drive
Brea, CA 92821

I was totally put-off by their shifting of responsibility to Ventura Foods. Nevertheless, I pressed on, writing Ventura Foods, which is a pretty big food supplier located in CA. I called them personally and even got the proper name of the person to whom I should direct an inquiry.

But I received nothing from him. Days passed, so I followed up. Finally, he wrote:

Your request was emailed to the HQ office for them respond to you.

I felt I was being stonewalled, even though I was told that this person was the appropriate one to respond to such queries in the first place. So I followed-up yet again. Here’s his terse response:

We are following company procedures.

More days passed. Finally, with the Sumatran Fires this week, I wrote the following to both Mrs. Fields and Ventura Foods, with more than just a bit of anger and finger-pointing:

“100 Orangutans Estimated Lost in Indonesian Fires for Palm Oil — Which Your Companies Wontonly Use”
Your companies completely ignore repeated requests for information related to your palm oil sourcing. While you delay, critically endangered species are killed to meet the sickening demand (for a cheap product for which there are alternatives) to which YOUR COMPANIES contribute.
Mrs. Fields Cookies: You have at least responded to our queries, yet you pass the buck to Ventura Foods. Because of their recalcitrance, however, I request that you stop using their products. How many orangutans have to be killed — and indigenous human forest villagers be displaced — before you do something right?
As to Ventura Foods: Do you have any heart in that thick corporate entity of yours? You have all but ignored our requests for more information. Such lack of responsiveness would seem to indicate that your palm oil is sourced from these criminal enterprises. If not, why not share that good information with Mrs. Fields and Ventura Foods’ consumers? Is addressing environmental concerns beneath the greed and profitability of your company?
I will be doing my best to publicize your inhumane and immoral ties to such killing, until informed and educated otherwise.
As one animal activist put it, “We are watching a global tragedy” occur in Sumatra.
Congratulations on contributing to it.

As of today I’m still waiting for a response. Their silence is telling — either they don’t give a thing about the death, destruction and displacement that demand for palm oil brings, or they don’t care about their own customer, like Mrs. Fields Cookies.

UPDATE: 3/31/2012: I did a little more research on Ventura Foods today and I was surprised to find that they are supposedly a member of the RSPO.  Although that’s hardly a solution, it IS a step in the right direction — if true, and I wanted to give Ventura Foods some credit (if credit is due).  One would think they would want to publicize that fact, especially to a nagging blogger like me.

Link below:

http://www.rspo.org/om/1508

http://understory.ran.org/2011/07/14/what-do-cargill’s-recent-palm-oil-commitments-mean-for-its-customers/

https://sites.google.com/a/nau.edu/class/palm-products/mrsfieldscookies

http://www.cspinet.org/palm/

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