May 28, 2013: I was in a sandwich shop (Jersey Mike’s) here in CA. Because it pretends to be a “real” East Coast sub shop they offer historically East Coast snacks, like TastyKakes, a brand I wasn’t familiar with growing up in CA. But while waiting for my giant veggie sandwich (half the cheese, please), I killed time by looking at the ingredient labels of the many TastyKake varieties. Palm oil was prominently featured. So I wrote them an email the next day.
I didn’t get an email response — but a nice public relations woman called me a few days later. She had already seen my email query and alleged that she was trying to get me the information I sought (I was hoping for a clear, unequivocal, “No, we’re not killing rainforest and orangutans here!”) But in my gentle questioning of why such info wasn’t readily available — given the ticking clock on remaining rainforests — she took umbrage with my framing the company’s flagrant use of palm oil as a possible money-saving issue. She quickly corrected me and said it wasn’t that — but that she’d have to check into it further with the people most knowledgeable.
Here it is more than three weeks later and I’m still waiting for her corporate response (thousands of football field-size chunks of destroyed rainforest later). I promise them — and you — that I will promptly update this post when I get some info.
But until then, know that your TastyKakes may be contributing to deforestation, death, displacement and exacerbation (can’t come up with a fourth “D” word there). This lack of sourcing information is enough to keep me from buying those little Hostess Zinger knock-offs (from my youth) from now on.
UPDATE: 9/30/2013: OK, I’ve emailed repeatedly. I’ve called twice. I’ve even talked to the nice woman who was going to give me their palm oil info. She’s stonewalled me every step of the way. Take it for what it’s worth.
I’m going to have to write here that Tasty Kake, when contacted for comment, would not reply to our request. To me one can infer that they either do not have the sourcing information of their own product ingredients, let alone palm oil. Or their silence implies they know they’re sourcing unsustainable palm oil, which leads to destruction of rainforests and peatlands, the death of critically endangered species, like the orangutan, the enslavement of poverty-stricken workers, the displacement of humans who depend on the rainforest for their sustenance, and the exacerbation of global warming, which affects every living thing on this planet.
UPDATED: 10/11/2013: Well, well, well, will wonders never cease? I just received the long-awaited response from Tasty Kake. Here it is:
Both Flowers Foods and Tasty Baking Company are committed to applying the principles of sustainability to all aspects of our business. This includes conserving natural resources through different means, including the careful selection of ingredient suppliers. We are aware of the situation facing the world’s orangutan population and share your concern. Between our two companies, we use three palm oil suppliers. All three of our palm oil suppliers have active sustainability programs that involve sourcing palm oil from areas that do not infringe upon orangutan habitats. All three of our palm oil suppliers also are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). In fact, one of our suppliers was a founding member of RSPO. You can learn more about our palm oil suppliers and their involvement with RSPO by visiting the following online sites:
XXXX, we appreciate your concern. Thank you again for taking the time to contact us about this matter.
Sincerely, Lyndsey Consumer Relations Analyst
Make you all fuzzy inside? I’ll give them credit — they actually mentioned the orangutan-habitat issue, which shows that this is not canned response (to me, at least). I appreciate their apparent concern. Unfortunately, if you look at the links above, they all hide behind RSPO certification (and we know how bogus that can be at this point in time). They even use Cargill, one of Rainforest Action Network’s biggest targets for HCV rainforest issues. So I had to respond again:
Hiding behind the greenwashing organization known as the RSPO offers little. (They just voted to allow labeling palm oil “sustainable” even if they come from secondary forests (where the original forests were already CHOPPED DOWN!)
And Cargill has one of the WORST records on palm oil.
Reproduced from here: http://ran.org/cargills-problems-palm-oil
U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill plays a leading role in the global palm oil market. The largest importer of palm oil into the U.S., Cargill has a two-part business model in the palm oil industry: it both owns and operates palm oil plantations in Indonesia and it purchases and trades palm oil and its derivatives worldwide.
This report presents evidence that Cargill is operating two undisclosed palm oil plantations in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Operations at these plantations are actively burning and clearing rainforests, causing conflict with local communities, destroying peatlands and operating in violation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) Principles and Criteria and outside of Indonesian law. It also finds that Cargill has failed to adopt and implement systematic safeguards in its production, purchasing and trading of palm oil from other suppliers.
Cargill’s palm oil commitments Cargill became a member of the RSPO, a voluntary standard for palm oil production, in 2004. As a certified member of the RSPO, Cargill is publicly asserting that the palm oil it produces and trades adheres to industry best practices and RSPO Principles and Criteria. 2 Investigation of the reality on the ground, however, reveals a wide gulf between Cargill’s palm oil operations and its stated commitments and responsibilities under the RSPO.
RSPO Violations This investigation presents evidence that Cargill is violating at least five RSPO criteria: • Operating outside of Indonesian law; • failing to disclose ownership of palm oil plantations; • clearing rainforests without permits; • failing to resolve ongoing and large-scale land conflicts; and » •destroying watersheds.
Indonesian Law Violations This investigation presents evidence that Cargill is violating at least five RSPO criteria: • Operating without an Environmental Assessment Report or Business Permits; • clearing rainforest without Timber Cutting Permits; • exceeding the maximum allowed concession area; • clearing peatlands; and • using fire/burning in palm oil concessions.
Systemic failures in Cargill’s supply chain This report also finds that Cargill is not exercising necessary oversight of its own supply chain to ensure that it is clear from controversy. Cargill is regularly purchasing from and trading with at least two controversial palm oil suppliers, SALCRA and Sinar Mas Group, that are actively destroying rainforests, violating human rights and operating outside of industry best practices and/or national laws.
Recommendations and Conclusions Bold action by Cargill, the most influential palm oil producer and trader in the U.S., to reduce the negative impacts of its palm oil operations could establish an important precedent for agribusiness throughout the world.
Based on the findings of our investigation, RAN recommends that: • Cargill adopt and implement a comprehensive palm oil policy that includes commitments to ensure socially and environmentally responsible palm oil production on their plantations and supplier plantations in line with RSPO Principles and Criteria and Indonesian law. •Cargill support a moratorium on natural forest conversion and peat land draining throughout their supply chain. •The RSPO immediately investigate Cargill’s violations under the RSPO P&C and take appropriate disciplinary action. •The RSPO immediately investigate and take action on existing complaints against problematic companies such as SALCRA and Sinar Mas, and implement an immediate moratorium on peatland conversion. •Cargill customers, such as General Mills, investigate their own supply chains, and cancel contracts with problematic suppliers, including Cargill and Sinar Mas Group. •The Indonesian government should investigate the legality of Cargill’s CTP Holdings plantations in West Kalimantan and take appropriate action based on their findings.
Read more: Cargill’s Problems With Palm Oil | Rainforest Action Network http://ran.org/cargills-problems-palm-oil#ixzz2hQomkGLl
More research is needed into these other palm oil suppliers: Bunge (who has a joint venture with Indonesian palm oil companies Tiga Pilar Sejahtera Food Tbk. The third one, IOI Loders Croklaan, has a sustainability policy (for what it’s worth).