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Borneo

Published on May 30, 2016

Borneo

People are becoming more discerning when it comes to reading the ingredients on packaging and more and more manufacturers are highlighting the fact that their product is free of one thing or another. This is usually due to a large number of people having intolerance's or allergies. But there is another ingredient that is often listed as 'free' for a completely different reason, and that is palm oil. It is a type of vegetable oil that is found in almost every other processed food found in the supermarket. It mainly appears in baked goods such as biscuits; confectionery such as chocolate; cosmetics such as shampoo and household cleaning products. Go and have a look in your cupboard and you are guaranteed to have products in there containing palm oil.

So why do we, among many other manufacturers, promote our products as palm oil free? Because 6 years ago we visited Borneo. We went there to climb Mount Kinabalu and camp in the rainforest, like you do on a 6 day mini-break travelling from Auckland to London. Whilst there we learnt many things…

Borneo

...like getting up at 3am to crawl to the top of a mountain only to have to wait half an hour clinging to the edge of a sharp rock in the freezing darkness with limited amounts of oxygen in the air, just to see the sun rise, probably wasn't a good idea…

Borneo

...and not to believe the man at the scooter shop that the ride to the tip of Borneo will only take 4 hours when actually it took 7 hours… on a scooter!…

Borneo

...and, more relevant here, we learnt about the effects of palm oil. The biggest producer of palm oil is Indonesia, closely followed by Malaysia. Did you know Indonesia is the THIRD LARGEST contributor of greenhouse gases after China and the US because of palm oil! Vast areas of primary rain forest in both Indonesia and Malaysia are burned to make clearings for palm oil plantations, not only resulting in huge amounts of pollution and deforestation but also the extinction of species and forcing people from their homes. We visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah where they care for orangutans that have been displaced from their homes because of forest clearing. We were told about the most awful treatment of these animals, all in the name of palm oil.

So should we stop buying all products that contain palm oil? Yes that would be great! But highly unrealistic, unless you follow a diet where you only eat food you have personally prepared in a cave over a fire you started by rubbing two sticks together. To start with even the ingredients listed on packaging can be misleading because there are no regulations that require palm oil to be declared! So that chocolate bar that has a sell by date far longer than is naturally possible, that says vegetable oil on the back, is most likely to actually be palm oil. It's used (mainly in mass produced chocolate) as a cheap alternative to cocoa butter. So it’s not real chocolate anyway, in our professional opinion! So the next time you choose a chocolate bar and you have the option to go ‘palm oil free’, don’t just think about the orangutans, but also about the quality of the chocolate you are eating.