Unpacking the deforestation-risk in your shopping basket
posted by Helen Burley, 2 September 2019
Tropical deforestation might not be on the label – but it is a hidden risk in far too many items on supermarket shelves. Everyday items such as chocolate and toothpaste frequently contain soy and palm oil, grown in tropical countries where forests are being cleared to make way for agriculture, meaning shopping basket staples come with a deforestation risk.
While some companies are taking steps to minimise the risk in the products they produce – the Forest 500 2018 annual assessment shows that the majority of companies are not doing enough.
Our shopping basket of everyday goods shows where some of the risks can be found and looks at which manufacturers have policies to address these risks – and which do not.
Unpacking the basket
First out of the basket, popular biscuit brand, Oreos, who describe themselves as the world’s favourite cookie. Like many of the items in the biscuit aisle, Oreos contain two forest-risk ingredients: palm oil and soy. Oreo manufacturer, Mondelez, has made a commitment to zero deforestation in its palm oil supply chain, but strangely, does not have a zero deforestation commitment for soy which is linked to deforestation in South America.
Mondelez also scores badly in the 2018 Forest 500 assessment because it does not have a commitment to ensure its pulp and paper supplies – used for packaging – are also deforestation free. The Forest 500 2018 assessment gives Mondelez an overall score of 3/5.
Overall score 3/5
It’s a similar story for chocolate spread favourite, Nutella – which again contains palm oil and soy. Nutella is made by Ferrero, which has only made a commitment to remove deforestation from its palm oil supply chains so far.
Overall score: 3/5
There’s more soy lurking in the shopping basket in the butter. Soy is a hidden ingredient in most dairy products – it isn’t on the label, but the chances are the cows that produced the milk were fed on soy, because it is widely used in animal feed.
Lurpak manufacturer Arla has not committed to remove deforestation from its supply chains, only making a weak commitment to “sustainability”. This means there is a risk in the Lurpak we spread on our bread.
Overall score: 3/5.
And there’s also likely to be hidden soy in the eggs in Kraft Heinz salad cream because the chickens that laid the eggs were most likely fed soy. Manufacturer Kraft Heinz has no zero deforestation policy for soy.
Overall score: 2/5.
Pet food risk
Soy can also be a hidden ingredient in the meat ingredients in pet food, as well as appearing on the label where it has been added as an extra source of protein. The hidden soy is found in animal products, such as chicken, lamb and fish, as these animals are likely to have been fed a soy-based feed. That means there is likely to be hidden soy in the Purina One cat food in our basket. Purina manufacturer Land O’Lakes does not have a zero deforestation policy for soy so that means Purina cat food has a deforestation risk.
Overall score: 1/5
Dinosaur deforestation risk
There’s likely to be more hidden soy in Bernard Matthew’s turkey dinosaurs. Bernard Matthews is owned by Boparan Holdings which also does not have a zero deforestation policy for soy, exposing turkey dinosaur consumers to deforestation risk.
There’s also a risk in products containing imported beef – cattle ranching is the biggest driver of forest loss in Brazil. While Brazilian fresh beef is mainly consumed in country, beef is also processed for tinned meats and for products such as gelatine which is an animal derived protein commonly used as a thickening agent. Dr Oetker’s gelatine sachets – owned by the Oetker Gruppe – could be from cattle that have grazed on deforested areas, as the company does not have a policy to ensure its beef supply chain is deforestation-free.
Overall score: 2/5
Removing the deforestation risk from supermarket shelves
While some companies are taking steps to ensure their products are not driving tropical deforestation, far too many manufacturers have not made commitments for all of the products they source – and that means the market for ingredients grown on deforested land continues.
By making a clear commitment to ensure that all their ingredients are deforestation-free, big brands can shrink that market and break the deforestation chain.
Companies wanting to source responsibly should be engaging with their suppliers and making sure deforestation-free production is a priority.
No-one wants to be destroying tropical forests when they re-stock their fridge, but a lack of action means we might all be driving deforestation.
Check out the brands you buy at forest500.org – and demand companies remove the deforestation risk from the products you buy.