Just bumped into an extremely smart co-worker in the hallway who told me she was bummed that Nutella is full of palm oil. I told her that, actually, Nutella, despite not using palm oil until about 2006 or so, is one of the good guys on the issue. I then ran to my laptop to double-check my source on this. Sure enough there’s this from Greenpeace on Ferrero’s palm oil initiatives:
Ferrero evaluated by Greenpeace’s palm oil scorecard and comes out as a leader
Greenpeace International has released its latest scorecard, and Ferrero has been categorized as ‘on track’ to ending deforestation for its sustainable palm oil efforts. Having surveyed 14 global consumer goods manufacturers with ‘no deforestation’ policies in place, Greenpeace has analyzed how they are progressing in the implementation of their policies and their direct impact on the ground. Ferrero, in addition to being identified as the only company to be able to trace nearly 100% of its palm oil back to the plantations, was recognized as one of the leading companies with a strong responsible sourcing and industry reform strategy. This affirms the positive and effective progress of Ferrero’s long term and multifaceted palm oil strategy, through which Ferrero is dedicated to only sourcing palm oil that aims to protect forests, their biodiversity and people who get a living from them. As part of this strategy, Ferrero launched its Palm Oil Charter in 2013, it achieved its objective to have products with 100% sustainable RSPO certified as segregated palm oil at the end of 2014, and became a member of the POIG in 2015. Ferrero will continue on its journey towards the full sustainability of its palm oil supply chain, engaged with industry and non-profit organizations through responsible and transparent actions, giving its relentless contribution to the sustainable innovation of the palm oil industry.
Although we wish Nutella would just go back to its original recipe and NOT use ANY palm oil (see below trail), at least they’re leaders in certified, traceable, sustainable palm oil use.
[If you’re not interested in the long history I’ve had with the Nutella people, skip write to the bottom’s latest update.]
The second ingredient listed in Nutella is rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing palm oil! The second freaking one! The company that makes it, Ferrero, is supposedly part of the RSPO, which we know is a toothless greenwashing vehicle for greedy corporations (for the most part). Here’s Ferrero’s response from their website to the palm oil issue :
As a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.
That’s it!? What if a controlled plantation was developed by first chopping down HCV rainforest, murdering orangutans, displacing humans and increasing global warming? Oh, well that’s not answered by “controlled plantations” now is it?
Well this is not enough. A lawmaker is being slammed in France for what he’s devised: a 400% tax on palm oil in Nutella, which is virtually the symbol of French chocolate guilty pleasure!
There’s this from the Malaysian palm oil lobby:
“The proposal is based on inaccurate claims that palm oil is bad for health and nutrition, and that Malaysia does not respect the environment,” the council said in a statement received here.
Oh really? You mean Malaysia DOES respect the environment? There’s plenty of dead orangutans, clear-cut forests, corrupt government officials, and drained peat swamps to attest to the contrary.
UPDATE: Well, the palm oil lobby — and France’s uniquely weird gastronomic obsession to embrace this ridiculously fatty, palm oil-drenched product — led to the French Senate voting this tax measure down. But, hopefully, the publicity that this proposed tax brought on the palm oil controversy paid off infinitely.
Again, palm oil was NEVER in the original Nutella recipes. So why cling to this dirty, dangerous vegetable oil now in its recipe? Because it’s cheap — cheap because seemingly all of Indonesia and Malaysia is being deforested to plant it.
Nutella gets a C grade for its shoddy sustainability practices. Go here:
UPDATE: I want to give credit where it’s due. Nutella is trying, apparently. Here’s this from Ferrero’s website.
PALM OIL: Ferrero uses palm oil in Nutella for texture and taste purposes.
It is important to understand that Ferrero sources its Palm oil from Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, not from Indonesia where extensive deforestation is taking place.
Since 2005, Ferrero is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil organisation (RSPO) (www.rspo.org) and our commitment is to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2014. (Emphasis mine.)
Detailed information can be found in the Social Responsibility section of our website located at:
Although 2014 couldn’t come fast enough for the critically endangered species, there is a sustainable palm oil industry in Papua New Guinea NOW. Let’s just hope that Ferrero’s getting most of their palm oil from there until they can source 100% certified sustainable palm oil from elsewhere.
And RSPO membership/certification can’t be entirely trusted either. In fact, many companies just use their RSPO membership to greenwash their environmental destructiveness. Here’s this from Rainforest Action Network:
But the sad truth is, many of the companies that use these[RSPO] labels are in fact still causing rainforest destruction and the clearance and draining of carbon-rich peatlands that release massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
So let’s not be too easy on Nutella/Ferraro just yet. Let them prove that they’re buying sustainable palm oil now, and not just claiming empty promises.
UPDATED: 6/14/2013: What’s with depending on the kindness of Malaysia in thinking that just because it’s grown there that no rainforests are being chopped down for palm oil? Maybe it’s not as bad as in Sumatra or Kalimantan (Indonesia), but Malaysian Borneo has its share of rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing baggage too. I just watched the first part of a rather dubious series running now on Fox Business Channel called, “Palm Oil, Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse.” It was a serious greenwashing of Malaysia’s palm oil business. Only Malaysian stakeholders were interviewed, like the local Forestry official, the palm oil lobbyist, a business owner, etc. In the first episode shown last Saturday, I did not see one NGO official interviewed. Find show times here: http://www.locatetv.com/tv/palm-oil-natures-blessing-or-natures-curse/8110164
One palm oil goon even cast suspicions on the apparently repeated use of the number “300” in regard to: 1) the number of football field-sized swaths of rainforest that are allegedly cleared each day for palm oil plantations in Malaysia; and 2) the number of orangutans killed in Malaysia in the past year (or something). His reasoning? This use of “3oo” coincided far too much with the “300” Spartans that held off the invading Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as featured in the CGI boxoffice blockbuster “300.” I mean seriously? That’s all you got?
UPDATED 11/21/2013: Here’s an article about how Ferraro and Nestle has gone further than other confectioners. That’s good news. If only the others would follow before it’s too late.
UPDATED 1/9/2015 – FINAL!?
It’s been awhile since I posted, but this seems like some genuinely decent good news. Though I am always skeptical, the source (Aussie-based Palm Oil Investigations) is pretty good, so let’s rejoice in some good (though apparently confusing) palm oil news for once.
Enjoy your Nutella more with this knowledge!
Palm Oil Investigations report Ferrero have achieved their 2014 goal to source all of the palm oil in Ferrero products (like household favourite Nutella), from ethical and sustainable sources.
This means 100% segregated Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil certified palm oil.
Confused about what exactly that is? We were too, and that’s because there is little regulation in the palm oil industry, so let’s take a closer look.
The confusion begins because even if a company is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), this does not necessarily mean that they are purchasing certified sustainable palm oil.
It means they have made a commitment to EVENTUALLY purchase sustainable palm oil, in most cases that commitment is to be in place by 2015.
So, it can be difficult when buying a product to know for sure that product uses certified sustainable palm oil.
Before you buy any product with RSPO labelling, you should look to see if it has the word CERTIFIED included. Furthermore, you should ask the brand exactly how much of the palm oil they source is certified sustainable palm oil, as sometimes a brand will mix certified and uncertified palm oil together.
Ideally, labelling indicating certified palm oil should look like this:
-100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil
– And, although it is not compulsory for a company to use the RSPO certification logo, it may also be featured. If a different logo was displayed, you could assume the certification claims to be untrue.
Caveat: Palm Oil Investigations doesn’t agree with boycotts and pretty much supports the RSPO’s Green Certificates Program. So….
UPDATE 6/17/2015: Lots of shit flying around today about Nutella in the wake of the French Ecology Minister trumpeting a boycott of palm oil yesterday. See link here:
Well, one orangutan charity activist got all hot and bothered — SHE DOES NOT agree with boycotts in general and immediately came to Ferrero’s aide. For what it’s worth, here’s a snippet from the article she posted:
In its latest report, available here, Ferrero announced that it had gone beyond certification to map the sources of its palm all the way back to the plantation. During 2014, TFT assisted Ferrero with this mapping process. As of today, 98% by volume of the palm oil used in Ferrero products can be traced back to plantations where the fruit was grown
TFT and Ferrero have also been working together with palm suppliers to implement improvements in worker conditions and commitments to No Deforestation and No Exploitation, and to further include smallholder farmers. Currently, 5.15% of Ferrero’s palm is supplied from approximately 27.5 thousand smallholders; Ferrero has committed to working with TFT’s new programme Rurality to help empower farmer leadership and rural innovation.
And Greenpeace weighed in too:
And look at this: Hot off the press, a retraction from the French minister:
[The French Ecology Minister] backtracked on Wednesday afternoon with a tweet offering “one thousand apologies”. She also said she had agreed to flag up the “progress” made by the brand, which has vowed to use palm oil only from certified sustainable sources.
UPDATE 6/23/2015: PALM OIL NOT EVEN IN NUTELLA UNTIL 2006-ish.
Curious about all the palm oil fuss with Ferrero, I did a little research to endeavor to find out when they first started using palm oil in the first place.
BOOM I! For instance, in Australia, Ferrero didn’t even start using it until 2006. This would seem to follow for the U.S. too since that is when trans fats were first given the heave-ho here.
Too bad Ferrero doesn’t just go back to using something other than palm oil, which is high in saturated fat anyway. But I guess that’s going to be tough with the unintended consequences of the elimination of trans fats in the US recently (and back in 2006). But my point remains: palm oil was NEVER even part of the recipe, apparently, until about nine years ago! Other than the whole trans fat bullshit, they fixed what wasn’t broken. (Hmmm, wonder if economics (cheap palm oil) played a part in Ferrero’s decision too!)
In all fairness, I called Ferrero to confirm this 2006 palm oil shift and they told me that it was not correct and to “Not trust everything I read on the internet.” However, it was THEIR OWN website! I told them I could not trust self-serving rationalizations by palm oil users, despite the fact that Ferrero is in the vanguard of using sustainable palm oil.
BOOM II! I just confirmed that palm oil was NOT in US Nutella as recently as 2005. Here’s what it says on an archived webpage. They used PEANUT oil!
The peanut oil that Nutella contains goes through a hot-solvent extraction process which takes out all the proteins, so you are left with pure peanut oil which is generally non-allergenic. Only oil prepared by the hot solvent extraction process that is commonly used in the United States is known to be free of protein.
In fact, thanks to the Wayback Machine the first available webpage that mentions palm oil isn’t until March 2009!
Is the modified palm oil in Nutella® hydrogenated?
No. The modified palm oil is a mix of the liquid and solid oil naturally extracted from the fruit of the palm. The mix is adjusted to assure the best consistency for easy spreading. The process also reduces the level of saturated fat. Per serving Nutella® has 0 gram transfat (see label).
Does Ferrero support responsible palm oil use?
Yes. As a member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.
- FRANCE: French lawmakers to debate ‘Nutella tax’ (sfluxe.com)
- Lawmakers can tax alcohol, tobacco, even gasoline, but keep your dirty, grubby hands off my Nutella [Amusing] (fark.com)
- France’s ‘Nutella amendment’ causes big fat international row (guardian.co.uk)
- Big job ahead for sustainable palm oil group (eco-business.com)