British supermarket chain Iceland bans use of palm oil in own-brand products over environmental concerns

Iceland is the first major British supermarket to ban palm oil as an ingredient.
Iceland is the first major British supermarket to ban palm oil as an ingredient.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ICELAND.CO.UK

LONDON - British supermarket chain Iceland will stop the use of palm oil in its own-brand products by the end of 2018, according to the BBC.

The Deeside-based chain uses palm oil in more than half of its products - from biscuits to soap - and is the first major British supermarket to ban palm oil as an ingredient.

Iceland cited the devastation of tropical rainforests across South-east Asia due to the growing demand for palm oil as the reason for its decision, which was taken after being alerted by activists at Greenpeace.

The ban only applies to the frozen food specialist's own products, which means that other products sold by the retailer may still contain palm oil.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker said there was "no such thing" as sustainable palm oil.

"Certified sustainable palm oil does not currently limit deforestation and it does not currently limit the growth of palm oil plantations," he told the BBC. "So until such a time as there is genuinely sustainable palm oil that contains zero deforestation, we are saying no to palm oil."

He said that the increase in costs would not be passed on to customers. "There will be an extra cost, but we think it's the right thing to do," said Mr Walker.

Palm oil cultivation has resulted in massive deforestation that has left some species without a home. Some plantations have also been developed without consulting local communities over the use of their land and have even led to forcible displacement.

Most British consumers are unaware about environmental concerns linked to palm oil, according to a survey of more than 5,000 people. A third were unsure what palm oil even is.

But when informed about its effects on the environment, 85 per cent of the respondents said they did not think it should be used in food products.

Iceland said that it has already found a substitute for palm oil for 50 per cent of its own-label range.

The chain has a history of removing controversial products from its shelves. It was the first supermarket to ban genetically modified crops in its own-brand goods, and earlier this year said it would eliminate or drastically reduce plastic packaging for its own-brand products by the end of 2023.