The seminar organised by the Swedish Food Federation in Stockholm on February 5 on sustainable palm oil saw the attendance of about a hundred participants. Food manufacturers, companies within the hotel, restaurant and catering industry and retailers but also representatives from NGO’s, journalists and the Malaysian Ambassador to Sweden gathered to discuss and listen to the challenges on how to transform the value-chain for sustainable certified palm oil and why it is important to raise the awareness and demand for sustainable certified palm oil.
The program started with by Dr. Kalanithi Nesaretnam from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board describing the value of palm oil production, both economically and socially for Malaysia.
Danielle Morley from the RSPO gave a presentation on how the roundtable is working to increase the demand for sustainable certified palm oil, which today has covered 18 percent of the global palm oil production.
Johan Anell from the Swedish Food Federation presented in brief the Swedish initiative for sustainable palm oil which was formed to raise awareness and as a commitment by Swedish food manufacturers to only use RSPO-certified palm oil by the end of 2015. Anneli Bylund from Swedish COOP followed and described how the retailers in Sweden are working towards using segregated palm oil in all their products.
Representative from WWF, Lena Tham shared the organisation’s position on palm oil and acknowledged that the commodity is an important source of income for the producing countries. This said, she mentioned that more companies should move to use certified sustainable palm oil as there is no excuse not to use RSPO-certified palm oil in the current market.
According to Maria Rydlund from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), “Companies shouldn’t ban palm oil in food products, but companies need to take a bigger responsibility to get the certification more effective”. SSNC is an active NGO in producing countries.
The Swedish Nutrition Foundation have made a study on the health aspects on palm oil and Ulrika Gunnerud presented this study which claims that palm oil doesn’t contain a bigger health hazard compared to other vegetable oils. It’s the amount of saturated fat which one should be careful with.
The seminar concluded with a panel debate from various stakeholders.
Awareness of sustainable palm oil is low
In relation to the seminar a survey was conducted by Demoskop and was presented by the Swedish Food Federation about the knowledge on certified sustainable palm oil.
It is a well known fact that palm oil is an ingredient in almost all food products. With that, 84 percent of the attendees acknowledged that they knew about palm oil.
Almost fifty percent of the respondents answered that they are avoiding products containing palm oil in food items due to environmental concerns.
Unfortunately, only one out of three that avoids palm oil knew about certified sustainable palm oil.
50 percent of those who are avoiding palm oil would be more supportive to buy food items containing palm oil if the RSPO trademark was marked on the product.