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Green Living

How Prince's food is destroying rainforests

Duchy Original biscuits, soup and pies contain oil responsible for deforestation

Prince Charles, who is touring the world campaigning to save the rainforests, is selling products containing an ingredient blamed for wrecking them.

Palm oil is present in five of products in his Duchy Originals range of organic groceries sold in British shops.

In the past year, Prince Charles has flown to the Amazon and Indonesia to lecture politicians, businesses and the public about the need to save rainforests, whose rapid destruction kills rare animals and hastens climate change.

Two years ago the heir to the throne set up the Prince's Rainforest Project with the backing of 18 corporations including Goldman Sachs and McDonald's to campaign against deforestation.

Environmental groups including the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, along with the United Nations, have expressed concern at the clearing of jungles in Sumatra and Borneo to make way for palm oil plantations. The world's cheapest cooking oil is also grown in Papua New Guinea and Colombia.

Yesterday The Independent disclosed the confirmed or suspected presence of palm oil in 43 leading brands, including Hovis bread, KitKats and Mars Bars.

Duchy Originals manufacturers pour palm oil into its toffee biscuits, beetroot soup, spinach and nutmeg soup, fresh chicken gravy and steak and ale pie. A spokesman for the company yesterday defended the practice, saying: "Currently less than five of our products – in a range of over 200 – contain palm oil. Duchy Originals only uses palm oil in recipes where there is no alternative, and then only in minimal quantities. We have worked hard over the past year to eliminate palm oil from a number of our products and have asked our producers to look at replacing it wherever possible."

Only two per cent of global palm oil is currently certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The rest – including supplies from newly-razed forests – is mixed together in refineries. At one stage Duchy Originals' PR company stated it only required suppliers to be RSPO members, but Duchy Originals later clarified that supplies had to be RSPO-certified.

There is no proof who buys these sustainable supplies because contracts are between manufacturers and suppliers. However the first certified supplies only became available in November 2008, meaning that Duchy Originals palm oil would not have had the international guarantee of sustainability before then. In November 2008, Prince Charles was visiting Indonesia to warn of the perils of deforestation. On its website, the Rainforest Project warns that "soaring demand for beef, soya and palm oil has put acute new pressures on the rainforests".

Palm-oil free foods

*Walkers Crisps; Muller Light; Lurpak; Lindt; Heinz Beans; Weetabix; Cathedral City Cheese; Heinz Soups; Danone Activia; Heinz Ketchup; Petit Filous; Dairylea; Anchor Spreads; Doritos; Bird's Eye Frozen Veg; Hellmann's Mayonnaise; Hula Hoops; Sensations; Yeo Valley Yogurts; Kettle Crisps; Uncle Ben's Rice; McCain's Chips; Snack a Jacks; Kellogg's Cornflakes; Toblerone; Danone Actimel; John West Tinned Fish. Palm oil is also not in leading pet food Pedigree, Whiskas and Felix, nor best-selling soft and alcoholic drinks.