WASHINGTON, June 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Palm oil has long been known topromote heart disease, but a new report from the nonprofit Center forScience in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that palm oil production alsopromotes destruction of the rainforest, particularly in Malaysia andIndonesia. Further loss of forest may push endangered animal species,including orangutans, Sumatran tigers, and Sumatran rhinos, intoextinction.
Production of palm oil is spiking upward, partly because some foodmanufacturers are seeking alternatives for partially hydrogenated oils,which promote heart disease. According to CSPI's report, "Cruel Oil: HowPalm Oil Harms Health, Rainforest, & Wildlife," more than 80 percent ofthe world's palm oil comes from Malaysia or Indonesia-where it is mostlygrown on land that once was rainforest or peat-swamp forests. When thoseforest areas are cleared, habitat for endangered animals is destroyed.
"We applaud food manufacturers for moving away from trans-fat- ladenpartially hydrogenated oils, and happily, many companies are switching tosuch heart-healthy oils as soybean, corn, or canola," said CSPI executivedirector Michael F. Jacobson, who co-authored the report along withwildlife ecologist Ellie Brown. "Consumers and food processors shouldrealize, though, that palm oil still promotes heart disease and thatproducing palm oil has a devastating impact on rainforest and endangeredwildlife."
One reason some food processors use palm oil is that it is semi-solid atroom temperature, making it useful in products such as cookies, crackers,spreads, and bars. Palm oil is also less expensive than soy and othervegetable oils. Some of the products that use palm oil, sometimes incombination with other oils, include Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Cranberrycookies, Voortman Vanilla Wafers, Nabisco Golden Oreo cookies, CadburyFinger Dark Cookies, and many products sold at "health food" stores.
"Consumers should understand that a seemingly small decision in thiscountry-what kind of cookie, cracker, or hand lotion to buy-can have majorconsequences on the other side of the world," said Brown.
CSPI and more than a dozen other organizations from around the world areurging the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and otherinternational aid agencies not to fund oil-palm development projects.
In addition, 14 scientists on Thursday called on the Department ofHealth and Human Services to encourage food processors to move away frompartially hydrogenated oils and palm oil and toward more healthful oils.
NOTE: Cruel Oil: How Palm Oil Harms Health, Rainforest, & Wildlife isavailable at http://www.cspinet.org/palmoilreport or by sending a checkfor $3.00 to Cruel Oil, CSPI, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C.20009.