CBS viewers learned why reputable companies are sourcing their palm oil from Malaysia, when registered dietitian nutritionist Felicia Stoler appeared on Good Morning Cincinnati. In this interview, Stoler explained why Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is better for the environment than other oil crops
“Think about the sustainability of ingredients,” advised Stoler, discussing Halloween candies. Certified sustainable Malaysian palm fruit oil is found in Mars, Nestle and some other brands of chocolate. To reinforce her point about responsible ingredient sourcing, she described meeting a woman who worked with a European chocolate company who agreed that Malaysia is the only place to get palm oil.
Malaysia is the first country to certify the sustainability of its palm oil. Under this mandatory program, all Malaysian palm oil producers must be certified sustainable by January 1, 2020.
The cultivation and processing of palm oil require fewer fertilizers, pesticides and fuel than most other oil crops such as corn, soy or canola. Stoler said, “In terms of sustainability, understand that the palm fruit tree grows for 30 years. They don’t have to worry about tilling the soil and putting other nutrients in. It’s a tree that’s very hearty.” This contributes to making oil palm plantations more efficient carbon sinks than a tropical rainforest and helping them to absorb greenhouse gases. Malaysian oil palm farmers take care of the environment. “I’ve been there,” Stoler said. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to see it … I can’t just tell people what to eat, I need to understand where it really comes from.”
Malaysia has committed to retaining at least 50 percent of its total land under natural forest cover. It also has high-profile initiatives in place which protect endangered and threatened species, such as orangutans and elephants and helps animals live in harmony with oil palm plantations.
Country-wide initiatives have been enacted to protect palm oil workers’ rights and help family farmers, who tend more than 40 percent of Malaysian oil palm-planted lands, increase their quality of life. Safe working conditions are mandated and fair wages are paid. Palm oil plantations are credited for lifting many Malaysians out of poverty.
Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is already an ingredient in many packaged foods, such as microwavable popcorn, Nutella and the Smart Balance line of spreads and peanut butters, as well as some candies made by Mars and Nestle.