Chef Gerard Viverito helped listeners of Sirius Satellite Radio’s Doctor Radio program make more sustainable food choices this winter. Chef G told a national audience that a good place to start is by adding foods made with certified sustainable Malaysian palm oil to their diets.
“What I’m trying to do is get people to be aware of where their food is coming from,” said Chef G, the director of education for non-profit Passionfish. In former days, everyone got their food locally, whether from a neighborhood butcher or by canning, freezing and dehydrating their own produce. “It tasted like summer all winter long,” said Chef G. Ingredients now come from around the world, but you can still make sure they are sustainable by knowing where they come from. “Everyone is going back to the source.”
Chef G spent six months in Asia, including Malaysia where he got to actually see the palm oil plantations. “That whole country, we could really take a lesson from,” he said. Malaysia’s forest coverage has been acknowledged at nearly 56 percent of its total land area. In contrast, he pointed out that the United States has set aside only four percent of its land for conservation. Oils palms produce fruit for 30 years, then non-producing trees are used as fuel for pressing oil. Malaysia’s oil palm plantations are actually carbon sinks, and efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As for wildlife, Chef G says, “I’ll give them credit, they are completely dedicated … you can go to the orangutan preserves … they’re beautiful, they’re amazing, they love their animals.”
Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is naturally non-GMO, which can’t be said for corn or soy oils. Additionally, oil palms require about 1/10th the amount of land to produce the same amount of oil than the far less-efficient soy or canola crops.
By January 1, 2020, 100 percent of Malaysian palm oil will be certified sustainable. The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification program, first launched in 2015, is quickly becoming known around the world as an indicator of quality. Its standards have been established to reflect the realities of the oil palm industry and address the concerns expressed by stakeholders.
Brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Hershey’s and ConAgra Foods are among the thousands of food manufacturers that have strong responsible palm oil policies. Most premium sustainable palm oil comes from Malaysian plantations.