Rang-tan: Iceland’s banned TV Christmas advert protests palm oil industry

Iceland accused of selling own-brand products containing palm oil – despite promising to stop

According to the BBC there were recently still 28 own-brand products listed on the website which contain palm oil or fat

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Wednesday 23 January 2019 20:43
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British supermarket chain Iceland is accused of hypocrisy for allegedly continuing to sell products containing palm oil, despite pledging to stop doing so by the end of 2018.

Last April, the retailer promised to stop supporting the use of palm oil – which is devastating rainforests in Asia – and remove it from all its own-brand products. It even based its Christmas TV ad on a Greenpeace video highlighting the issue.

The advert was subsequently banned when it was deemed “too political”, creating a social media uproar which broadly supported Iceland’s choice to make an environmental statement.

Despite Iceland’s promises, according to the BBC there are still 28 own-brand products listed on the website which contain palm oil or fat, as well as more than 600 from other brands.

Iceland responded by saying that any products containing palm oil were old stock of frozen products with a longer shelf life – presumably manufactured before its self-imposed ban went into effect.

However the BBC noted that one such item was a six-pack of fruited hot cross buns which were marked as “new”, and included palm and rapeseed oil. A seemingly identical product is now listed on the site as containing only rapeseed oil.

Many own-brand products on Iceland’s website appear with a “no palm oil” logo, while others – many of which do not mention palm oil in the ingredients – do not have the logo attached, leading to scepticism among some consumers, while others praised the brand for making an effort.

The BBC said it was able to purchase a number of own-brand products containing palm oil, but that since Iceland was contacted, many of these products have been marked as “currently unavailable” on the retailer's website.

Iceland responded to these allegations saying: “We committed to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in Iceland own label food by the end of 2018, and this promise has been fulfilled. No lines produced after 31 December 2018 contain it as an ingredient.

“To avoid food waste, some own label lines made before we completed the removal of palm oil as an ingredient remain on sale until stocks are exhausted.

“We are grateful to the BBC for alerting us to a technical glitch on our websitecertain product descriptions had not been updated. These have now been corrected.”

They went on to say that they'd "worked tirelessly to remove palm oil from our own label food, and have invested millions of pounds to do so."

Iceland said: "Removing palm oil represents a huge technical challenge: it is not simply a matter of switching to a substitute ingredient. In many cases the manufacturer has to change its production equipment and processes, often at considerable cost, and this is not something that can be accomplished overnight."

John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK said that: "If they still have old stock on their shelves they need to make that clear to consumers in order to fulfil the promise they made."

He continued: “Big brands like Unilever, Nestle and Mars also promised to only buy palm oil with no links to deforestation by 2020. They are nowhere near delivering and must now be transparent about how they plan to fulfil that vital commitment.”

There are a number of branded products containing palm oil available to buy on Iceland's Website, including Oreos, McVities Jaffa Cakes and Utterly Butterly, leading consumers to question the brand’s commitment to sustainability.

Palm oil is a cheap, mass-produced ingredient found in almost half of all supermarket products, from crisps to biscuits, salad dressings and even soap.

It’s problematic because in the process of harvesting the oil, the trees are cut down, leading to deforestation and loss of animal habitat among endangered species in the rainforest.

In the past 16 years, demand for palm oil has led to the death of an estimated 100,000 orangutans, according to research.

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