Our small Portlebay team are proud of our all natural popcorn that we hand pop ourselves. Our range has been carefully crafted to reduce any allergens, to cater for those that are vegetarian and vegan, and to offer a healthier snack alternative to crisps and other popular snacks. Along our quest to create tasty treats, we also endeavour to be conscious and thoughtful with our actions, in order to conserve and safeguard our beautiful home and those that inhabit it. For these reasons palm oil is a big no no and we strongly dislike the stuff!
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is type of vegetable oil, that is traded globally and is present in many of the products we see on the supermarket shelves. The oil is derived from the palm fruit, which grows on the African Oil Palm Tree. Today palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. Currently, the majority of palm oil is produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia. As noted by the activist group of Say No To Palm Oil, the demand for the oil has very rapidly increased in recent decades, as it has been made widely available, is inexspensive (due to small production costs) and is a diverse product with regards to its uses. The group also highlighted, that the oil is found in a huge amount of household products including baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning products, washing detergents and toothpaste, leaving the average Western citizen consuming more than 10kg of palm oil annually.
What are the issues with palm oil?
A great proportion of palm oil development occurs at the expense of the environments in which the palm oil is sourced. As identified by the WWF, palm oil plantations have a number of environmental impacts including:
- large scale forest conversion
- soil erosion
- air pollution
- soil and water pollution
- climate change
The most significant issue of these is the large scale forest conversion. In Indonesia and Malaysia there is a direct relationship between the growth of palm oil plantations and deforestation. In 2007 the United Nations Environment Programme published a report which professes that oil palm plantations are the leading cause of rainforest devastation in the two countries. The extensive forest devastation of palm oil plantations is resulting in calamitous effects for a large number of plant and animal species.
Palm Oil Investigations, a non profit organisation which focuses on educating and raising awareness about the hazards of palm oil, passionately talk about the species which are edging towards extinction, as a result of the habitat destruction that is taking place during the production of palm oil.
Both the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered due to palm oil plantations. Orangutans create nests to sleep in during the night, and reside in smaller nests during the day time. In order to survive orangutans need trees and forestry, however the higher the demand for palm oil the less forestry there is for the orangutan.
The Bornean orangutan is a Borneo native, which today is a protected specie, with specific ares of Borneo specially protected, however it has become apparent that a large majority of these orangutans currently
are living outside of these protected areas. The distribution of the Bornean organutan is extremely patchy throughout the island, with fewer than an estimated 60,000 left in the wild. This figure is significantly declining, with the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Borneo, as the lack of forestry leaves the orangutans vulnerable to poachers. The demolition of forestry is forcing the orangutan populations to shrink and making the creatures more prone to genetic drift and inbreeding.
The Sumatran Orangutan are being threatened by both illegal and legal logging, the conversion of forest land to agricultural land and palm oil plantations. Sumatran orangutans are currently forecasted to be one of the first Great Apes to become extinct, with there being less than 6,000 remaining in the wild.
The Sumatran elephant is native to the Indonesia island of Sumatra and are smaller than African elephants. These elephants are being threaten by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and poaching. Subsequently, there less than 2,500 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild. In the last 25 years 69% of potential elephant habitat has been lost, leaving much of the remaining forest in limited sections which are too small for elephant populations to live in.
Due to habitat loss and a lack of food, elephants are frequently being poisoned as they are forced to stray into plantations and villages which have strategies to prevent elephants impeding on the areas. This conflict between humans and elephants is becoming more frequent as habitats are cleared for palm oil, putting the Sumatran elephants at even more risk.
Sumatran tigers are the smallest of all tigers and have more of beard and mane than most. The Sumatran tiger resides in the forest of the Sumatran Island where they are fighting for survival.
Currently there are approximately 300 Sumatran tigers existing in the wild. With the acceleration of deforestation for palm oil and poaching, the tigers could in time be extinct. The deforestation is not only depriving the tigers of a habitat but also of food. With both poaching and deforestation showing no sign of slowing the tigers are increasingly at threat.
There are even more animals which are being threatened by the palm oil plantations, including:
- Sunda Clouded Leopard
- Sumatran Rhinoceros
- Crested Black Macaque
None of these creatures should be disregarded and certainly not pushed to extinction as a consequent of our own actions.
Survival, a global group devoted to fighting for tribal people’s rights, passionately notes that many indigenous tribes are under great threat from palm oil plantations. One woman from the Penan tribe (a group of hunter-gathers) from Malaysia told Survival, ‘The forest is my roof and my shelter and the forest is also where I can find food to eat. But when the oil palm comes in, everything will be gone.’
Although palm oil plantations frequently promote bringing development to rural areas and providing employment for some locals, the impact of the plantations have also had devastating effects on locals living around the affected areas.
As the plantations are destroying the rainforest, the local people are having no other choice but to work for and depend on the income from the plantations. These working conditions are of a poor standard and many of the workers do not earn enough to support their families. Furthering this, child labour has also become an issue in some areas, with children suffering from heat exhaustion and gaining injuries from climbing thorny oil palms.
Although it has been evident that indigenous people have in some cases benefited from the palm oil industry in Indonesia, these situations are particularly rare. Palm oil has on frequent occasions had a long lasting negative effects, which has subsequently altered the lifestyle of many. More often than not indigenous people have become subject to cruel and greedy palm oil labour, with little choice in the matter.
Is palm oil bad for your health too?
A Common Ingredient
As mentioned by the organisation Live Strong, which provides expert information on all topics that contribute towards a healthy lifestyle, palm oil is less expensive than many other oils and can be utilised to extend the shelf life of processed foods, as a result of this it is often found in our supermarkets and often a substance that we consume.
The organisation further this stating that palm oil in an oxidised state can be a danger to our physiological and biochemical functions. Manufacturers of processed goods do often oxidise palm oil found in these products for culinary reasons, which consequently means a great deal of the palm oil consumed by shoppers is in this oxidised state. The threats of oxidized palm oil include organotoxicity of the heart, kidney, liver and lungs and reproductive toxicity. Not nice.
Erica Kannall, a registered dietitian and certified health/fitness specialist, emphasised that palm oil is notably high in saturated fat. Diets which are high in this saturated fat can contribute to high levels of cholesterol and also a build up of plaque in the arteries. If the consumption of saturated fat is continued for a long duration it could lead to a heart attack or stroke. The NHS recommend that the average man should not eat any more than 30g of saturated fat per day and no more than 20g of saturated fat per day for the average woman. One tablespoon of palm oil contains 7g of saturated fat. This means, a person consuming products containing palm oil could easily reach their recommended limit, without even considering products with no palm oil but still high in saturated fat.
What do we use instead of Palm Oil then?
During the process of hand popping our delicious popcorn we use rapeseed oil instead of palm oil. Our rapeseed oil is both grown and produced in the UK and so doesn’t travel far before arriving at our little Poppery! At all stages of the rapeseed oil creation process no people or animals are threatened or harmed.
Rapeseed oil is also low in saturated fat and so is far less likely to cause a build up of plaque in the arteries. Not only is rapeseed oil
low in saturated fat but, as stated by BBC Good Food, it has been acknowledge for having a range of health and nutritional benefits. This includes the oil containing omega 3, 6 and 9, which helps to reduce cholesterol and also maintain healthy joints, brain and heart functions.
We believe that our popcorn should be created with the best natural ingredients, that can be enjoyed and consumed without contributing to any health issues. We also aim to be conscious and thoughtful with our decisions throughout the popcorn process, as we live in a beautiful world, with many beautiful creatures which we would hate to harm or deprive in any way.