Halloween is traditionally a day when we choose to ignore the inconvenient truths about candy. Many of us overindulge on sweet treats and give little thought to what’s inside… particularly with respect to nutrition.
But there is a spooky side to candy that is neither a trick nor a treat: palm oil. This cheap and versatile ingredient, which can be found in many candies and half of all packaged food products in general, is driving tropical deforestation, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia.
It’s estimated that the equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest is destroyed every hour to clear land for palm oil plantations. This habitat destruction has decimated the populations of many vulnerable species in the region, including the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and Sumatran Elephant.
This Halloween, conservation organizations are encouraging consumers to purchase confectionary that is produced using only sustainably-sourced palm oil or no palm oil at all. And if you already purchased your treats this year, this is just something to keep in mind for when you next find yourself in the candy aisle. Some of the biggest palm oil growers, traders and buyers, including Nestle, General Mills, Kellogg’s, and the Hershey Company, have made ‘zero-deforestation’ commitments in recent years. But traceability issues and lack of enforcement remain a concern.
To help shed some more light on this issue, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has created a free, sustainable palm oil shopping guide app. The goal of the app is to help consumers find products made by companies that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. You can find a link to the app online at earth-wise-radio-dot-org.
During this election season, it’s important to remember that our dollars are our votes when it comes to food. Let’s vote for change in agriculture.
Photo, posted October 30, 2012, courtesy of Paul’s Imaging Photography via Flickr.