ForFreeChoice, an Italy-based think-tank is calling on the European Parliament and Commission to step in and protect its citizens from misleading claims by companies that says “Free from Palm Oil” products guaranteed customers healthier food and less environmental degradation.
“We call upon the new European Parliament and Commission to step up where others before them have failed, and to intervene to protect their citizens,” ForFreeChoice Institute said in a press release sent to The Palm Scribe.
It said that the “Free-from” claims are often used for persuading consumers that the absence of one ingredient makes the product better, that the excluded nutrient should be avoided because it is harmful, whereas its substitutes are better.
It also called on NGOs to boycott companies that abuse the “Free-from” claim because they do not contribute to “supporting the environment or biodiversity, but on the contrary, threaten it by not investing in sustainable supply chains” adding that these companies use the claim “Free-from” solely for commercial purposes, falsely leading consumers to believe that they are eating better and saving the planet when in fact, they are doing quite the opposite.
“The claim “Free-from palm oil” is extremely misleading for consumers and stems solely from companies commercial reasonings and goals. The label “Free-from Palm Oil” provides the consumer with deceptive information that is not based on empirical evidence and is devoid of facts,” the release said.
ForFreeChoice said it chose palm oil because it was a symbolic case. It is accused of being harmful to health because it is too rich in saturated fats, and of being poorly sustainable for the environment, in as much as on its own it is responsible for deforestation and a major threat to biodiversity and local communities.
The “Free-from Palm Oil” label is used to convince the consumer that food products without palm oil not only have a healthier nutritional profile but are also more sustainable for the environment than a product that contains it. This is because the absence of palm oil is associated with a lower quantity of saturated fats, as well as better environmental and social sustainability,” ForFreeChoice said.
However, comparative studies it had conducted showed that products carrying the “free from palm oil” contained more saturates and were less sustainable than those containing palm oil. The latest study, the third in a series, analyzed 96 food products, divided into 10 categories, within which there is a comparison of the total and saturated fats present in 100 grams of the “free from” and “with” palm oil product.
The latest study showed that many products containing palm oil contain the same, if not lower, levels of saturated fats compared to those in which palm oil has been removed, ForFreeChoice said, adding that it also demonstrated the ingredient’s greater sustainability compared to its vegetable and animal substitutes.
“Sixty-three percent of products with palm oil have levels of saturated fat lower than to those in which palm oil has been eliminated and where the product is advertised with the claim ‘Free-from’,” it said, adding that while the average content of saturated fats in ‘free from’ products was 10,18 grams the corresponding figure for products ‘with’ palm oil was only at 9,13 grams.
Products without palm oil are, in fact, less sustainable than those with it, ForFreeChoice said, adding that the study showed that sustainable palm oil is better for both the environment and biodiversity than its plant and animal surrogates. The study referred to several comparative Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) that examined various vegetable oils. The LCA is an analysis that measures the effects on the environment associated with a given product in each phase of its life cycle.
“In the LCAs examination, palm oil turns out to be better than its alternatives in terms of the overall environmental impact; particularly if we consider the parameters: energy used, greenhouse gas emissions, photochemical smog, and land use.
*ForFreeChoice is a platform that defends individual freedom of choice and responsibility, based on critical thought. ForFreeChoice also promotes scientific information and method as fundamental tools to raise awareness and lead the public debate.