Posted on: October 30, 2015

Industry and NGOs agree that certified sustainable palm oil is the solution

The European Palm Oil Conference (EPOC 2015) held in Milan today marked a turning point in the debate on palm oil in Italy.  Leading businesses and NGOs present at the conference reached a strong consensus on the role of certified sustainable palm oil in the Italian food industry, for both sustainability and nutritional reasons. EPOC also welcomed the launch of the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil (Unione Italiana per l’olio di palma sostenibile) which has just begun work on the task of raising awareness of the benefits and contribution of certified sustainable palm oil for the food industry.

Organised by the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA), a platform created to rebalance the debate on palm oil in Europe, EPOC 2015 is supported by its partners the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Indonesia Estate Crop Fund for Palm Oil, and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative.  It was co-hosted by the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil.

Directly linked to the Milan Expo 2015’s theme, ‘Feeding the planet, energy for life’, EPOC 2015 demonstrated that to solve sustainability issues globally and meet the global rising demand for edible fats and oils, the only oil to replace palm oil is certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).

The engaging debate showed the important role certified sustainable palm oil plays in creating viable solutions to feeding the planet in the future. It also underlined the importance of transparency in the food industry and the need for factual, science-based information to inform the debate on palm oil. Experts from different parts of the palm oil supply chain shared their opinions and engaged in a debate on the latest scientific and consumer insights as well as the most recent developments in production.

Frans Claassen, the chair of EPOA, said: “We need to work together through the supply chain to make sure the right information exists so that consumers can make informed food choices that will help improve their diet. The palm oil industry takes responsibility for providing fact-based information and explaining its commitment to 100 per cent certified sustainable palm oil in Europe. EPOC 2015 is held to highlight this commitment and to provide a place for all those working with the palm oil industry to discuss and find new ways to support each other through a growing number of industry initiatives in Europe.”

Mario Piccialuti, Director General of AIDEPI, commented: “AIDEPI has always worked to promote a ‘culture of sustainability’ along the whole food processing chain. In this regard, AIDEPI has always seen favorably the project of the creation of an ‘Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil.”

In the plenary session, Gerrit van Duijn, President of Euro Fed Lipid, explained the important role that palm oil plays in feeding the world and its high yield and versatile properties.

Laurent Cremona, Global Director of the Ferrero Group, discussed the differences in consumer knowledge in European countries and the mismatch between facts and consumer perceptions. Giorgio Donegani, President of the Italian Foundation for Food Education, stressed the importance of education to increase consumer knowledge and getting the facts right.

Daan van der Wekken, Senior Manager Retail and Trade, IDH, explained the work IDH and MVO are conducting to support the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil in Europe in close collaboration with the national industry initiatives, EU associations, and the RSPO. He also indicated that towards the end of the year a private sector-driven commitment to 100 per cent sustainable palm oil in Europe is expected to be signed by these national organisations and European sector organisations engaged with the palm oil supply chain. This commitment will be endorsed by the Consumer Goods Forum as well by an expected wide array of global NGOs.

In the sustainability session of the conference, the latest developments in certifying sustainable sourcing were addressed by Stefano Savi, RSPO’s Global Outreach and Engagement Director, who stated: “Italy is a crucial market for RSPO and we very much welcome the launch of the Italian Union and their commitment to sustainability.  Being in Milan just before the EXPO 2015 concludes is a good opportunity to show why certified sustainable palm oil is the best solution to feed and protect the planet. These two priorities must go hand in hand. The UN COP21 climate change negotiations next month will confirm the importance of sustainable land use and RSPO is very much part of that.”

Marc Jansen, Director at Dutch Food Retail Association, underlined the key role that retailers, at the end of the supply chain, play to increase the uptake of sustainable palm oil. The key factors leading to the successful transformation of the UK market to use 100% sustainable palm oil was shared by Judith Murdoch, Director, Murdoch Associates Ltd.

Eva Alessi, Head of Sustainability, WWF Italy, also stressed that in a world facing big deforestation issues in tropical areas and in order to solve global sustainability issues, the only oil that can replace palm oil is sustainable palm oil.

Bayu Krisnamurthi, Chief Executive of Indonesia Estate Crop Fund for Palm Oil, emphasised Indonesia’s sustainability efforts: "Sustainability is of utmost importance to Indonesia. This can be seen from the industry’s joint efforts on collecting funds to encourage the uptake of Indonesia sustainable palm oil, carrying out its sustainability pledge by empowering smallholders and encouraging rural development to reduce poverty.”

The nutritional aspects of palm oil were debated by experts in the nutrition session. Carlo La Vecchia, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology, University of Milan, explained the contradictory effects of palm oil consumption on blood lipid markers of cardiovascular disease. Dr Kalyana Sundram, Vice President of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council showed new data from a recent study in Malaysia that revealed the absence of impact of palm oil consumption on cardiovascular disease risk. Prof. Sri Raharjo, Director of Research Faculty of Agrotechnology, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, explained the important role palm oil has played in replacing trans fats (TFA) in food.

Results from a food consumption study in France, presented by Gabriel Tavoularis, Deputy Director Consumption, Crédoc France, showed that palm oil intake in France is limited to 2.8 grams per day or 3.7% of the SAFA intake (30,5g/d). This is very low compared to the amount of saturated fats recommended by most inter-national advisory bodies (5 – 12 energy per cent). Laure d’Astorg, Secretary General of the French Alliance on Sustainable Palm Oil, showed that the increase in palm free product labelling was associated with almost half of the French consumers thinking that the use of palm oil in food is bad for your health. She explained the large efforts needed to provide fact-based information, educate consumers and rebalance the palm oil debate in France.

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For the report and the video click here.