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the problem with palm oil

Interest in palm oil has been growing for some time now, and recently there's been a bit of a buzz on social media regarding its use in the cake decorating world and in the products we all use

Let’s be totally honest about it . . . most palm oil production is a bad thing.  It harms rainforests and biodiversity by destroying fragile wildlife habitats, probably most famously that of the old man of the forest: the orangutan.  But he's not alone - critically endangered mammals such as the Sumatran elephant, Bornean pygmy elephant, the Sumatran tiger and the Sumatran rhino are all at risk plus many more bird and insect species are also affected

Palm oil is suitable for vegan diets but many vegans argue that animals are still exploited through the loss of their natural habitat directly due of the practices of the oil and timber industries.  There’s a human cost too with the loss of traditional farmland, land-grabbing, exploitative wages and other human rights concerns

All in all it's not a particularly pleasant picture, although there are encouraging signs that things may be starting to get better, and that's what we want to tell you about

 

So why use palm oil at all?

Quite simply, because it’s a fantastic product that is in great demand around the world.  Palm oil can be used as an ingredient in place of animal fats to create products that are suitable for vegetarians, vegans, meet various religious dietary requirements, that have a massively increased shelf life and are substantially healthier than if made using animal fats

Palm oil accounts for around 35% of all the world’s vegetable oil and it is estimated that around 50% of the products on supermarket shelves contain palm oil.  Beyond food, palm oil is widely used in the cosmetics industry and even for making biofuel.  We’re never going to end palm oil production, but we can manage it in a more responsible way

Sustainable, ethical agriculture is surely the answer

 

RSPO certified sustainable palm oil

RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified palm oil is sourced entirely from sustainable farming.  Everyone involved in the supply chain of products that use RSPO certified sustainable oil is audited to prevent overselling and mixing palm oil with conventional or non-sustainable oil palm products.  It’s strict – and so it should be!

Not surprisingly, it’s neither easy nor cheap for a product to become RSPO certified, but that certification is essential if a brand is serious about the ethical sourcing of ingredients and about recognising its environmental responsibilities

Cake Stuff is committed to encouraging all our suppliers to ensure only RSPO certified palm oil is used in their products, but there's a limit to our influence and, with products coming from around the world, it's not a problem we can solve on our own

Our prediction is that some brands of sugarpaste may move to using different kinds of vegetable oil and claim to be 'palm oil free', especially those who have not been able to achieve RSPO certified status.  That's all well and good, but by distancing themselves from the debate they are not actively engaged in trying to improve the situation.  Cottonseed oil, almond oil, coconut oil and even olive oil are all possible alternatives but anything that adds flavour or colour is simply not suitable for quality sugarpaste, plus we should never forget that there is still an environmental impact from the farming of all such crops.  There's no simple answer, despite what some may be tempted to claim

We want to remain involved in the debate and engaged in helping to find a lasting solution, so we are committed to the sustainable, ethical farming methods that are now beginning to make a difference . . . watch the little YouTube video from the World Wildlife Fund below

We are also happy to guarantee that Cake Stuff's own products will only ever use RSPO certified palm oil and our flagship sugarpaste, Couture, has only ever been produced using RSPO certified palm oil


Couture only uses RSPO certified palm oil

Read more about RSPO certification here:  www.rspo.org 

 

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