Three leading European chocolate companies have come bottom of an environmental impact ranking of candy Easter eggs based on their palm oil content, a new survey shows.
The charity Rainforest Foundation UK and the British magazine Ethical Consumer assigned more than 70 types of candy Easter eggs an “ethical score” from one to 20 based on whether their company used palm oil, makes substantial policy statements, and are a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
“This was an opportune time to bring to public awareness that there are choices in this time in particular that they could be making that could have a significant environmental impact,” Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, told EURACTIV.
The ranking is a response to the threat that unsustainable palm oil production poses to rainforests, their wildlife and the people who depend on the forests.
Huge areas of rainforest have been cleared in Indonesia, Central Africa and other areas to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used as a source of biofuel as well as in foods.
The World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., estimates that Indonesia lost more than 40% of its rainforests from 1950 to 2000 and that the pace of clearing was growing. However, the government has taken steps to restrict palm oil production to land currently under cultivation.
Current EU rules allow companies to label palm oil as vegetable oil, but proposed changes to the European Food Information regulations will require companies to label the specific oil that they use, including palm, the daily Guardian reported on Monday (25 March).
A number of companies have already begun implementing the changes.
With chocolate eggs a traditional Easter-time gift, the organisations hope that they can persuade consumers to opt for the more ‘ethical’ choices.
UK-based Divine Chocolate, which works in partnership with the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa growers’ collective, and Booja Booja, an organic confectionary group, came top of the ranking, with a full rating of 20.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, received a middling ranking of 10.
Lindt & Sprüngli, Guylian and Thorntons – three popular brands – were at the bottom of the ranking.
The Rainforest Foundation UK is putting together a database of palm oil content in all of Britain’s chocolate, which they intend to publish on the website by the end of the year. They plan to expand the database to all food products containing palm, including biscuits, cakes, and certain ready-meals, with the aim of raising consumer awareness of the environmental and social consequences of unsustainable palm oil. A number of other products, including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals use palm oil.
“Everyone needs to play their part in putting this problem behind us”, Counsell said.