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Economía del consumidor

OCU suggests not to abuse palm oil and consume only certified sustainable crops

20 feb. 2017

Palm oil has become one of the most commonly used raw materials globally, it is used in the production of a large number of food and cosmetic products. It is an oil is very rich in saturated fats, so it is far from an ideal alternative from the point of view of nutritional balance, OCU advises not to abuse it. When possible it is recommended to consume those products made with olive or sunflower oils as they are healthier. Recently there has been some controversy about a series of contaminants present in some palm oils, which have created some alarm as to the safety of this product. Specifically, these are 3MCPD, 2MCPD and GE compounds, these have been classified as possible cancinogenic for humans and probable in the case of GE. It is important to note that these types of contaminants are not exclusively in palm oil, as they also appear in other types of refined vegetable oils such as soybean oil or corn, although it is true that in the latter in lower quantities. Therefore, administrations are asked to pay special attention regardless of the type of oil. The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has already established levels of safety for these contaminants in food, although OCU is especially concerned about the presence of these in baby food, under 6 months, which can be overexposed to only feed on milks Children in their first months of life. Being an economical and versatile oil can be found in a great variety of products: dessert toppings, cacao creams, cakes, ready meals, french fries, snack products, ice cream, sauces, cleaning products, cosmetics or candles. This explains the increase of its use in all types of products, unfortunately this widespread use carries a great social and environmental impact for its production.

The tropical countries where palm oil is produced mainly are Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85% of world production is concentrated, although crops can be foundin many countries such as Papua, Colombia, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil, etc.

Unfortunately, the effects of the expansion of intensive crops exclusively dedicated to palm oil have affected deforestation of tropical forests, according to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), the appropriation of indigenous lands, human rights abuses and damage to Local species such as tigers, elephants and orangutans. It is common for plantation workers in Southeast Asia to charge below the minimum wage or to work for free to reach the family quota. The creation of new plantations often involves the violation of the territorial rights of indigenous communities, their displacement without consent or the loss of access to their traditional resources. The great challenge to stop the tremendous impact that these crops have on the life and economy of the autonomous communities, where they lose their traditional way of life, their lands and biodiversity, is to ensure that the oil consumed comes from sustainable crops.

Despite the efforts of different organizations only the RSPO seal certifies that it is produced in a sustainable manner. And yet, many brands do not look at the product, so the consumer does not always have this information at the time of purchase.

OCU believes that manufacturers of consumer products should veto the palm oil produced in an unsustainable way and guarantee the consumer respect for environmental and social minimums. OCU demands the obligation to clearly indicate on the label the origin of the palm oil and if it meets the sustainability requirements, just as those companies that use palm oil of a sustainable origin indicate it in their labeling.

This way, consumers are given the information they need when making responsible purchasing decisions with the environment, so they can choose products that guarantee that the principles of sustainability in their consumption have been respected.

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