This Valentine’s Day Skip the Palm Oil Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is dipped in chocolate. Truffles neatly arranged in heart shaped boxes will exchange many hands this Friday. Before you make your chocolate purchase this year scan the ingredients for palm oil.

Chocolate is half cocoa butter which solidifies at room temperature. Cocoa butter gives chocolate its sheen, snap and higher melting point. Increasingly, palm oil is substituted for cocoa butter. The versatility and low price of the edible oil are favored among confectioners. The replacement of cocoa butter in chocolate products is expected to grow with the looming cacao shortage.

To produce the world’s most popular vegetable oil, the tropic landscapes are engulfed with orderly rows of palm trees. In Indonesia, the world’s number one producer of palm oil, the metamorphosis of terrain is the most drastic.

Indonesia, a gathering of 18,000 islands on the Indian Ocean are lush in biodiversity and host to one of the world’s most extensive peatlands. Peatland is simply layers of soggy plant debris; they act as fresh water reservoirs. Formed over a period of 10,000 years, the layers of plant material can reach depths of 70 feet. The saturated land is a critical source of clean drinking water for animals and humans living downstream.

Peatlands are critical in regulating the world’s climate. They hold 30 percent of the world’s carbon, more than all the forests combined. Over the ages they’ve absorbed 1.2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide. This amount is equivalent to carbon emitted from 34 thousand coal plants in a year.

During the dry season, peatlands are ablaze in Indonesia. Illegal fires down virgin forests and drain peatlands. Palm is planted on the cleared terrain.

Nearly 2 million palm plantations grow on former peatlands in Indonesia. The Indonesian government issues face masks to its citizens to bear the sinister smoke from smoldering peatlands. But the damage is irreversible. The carbon is released into the atmosphere, the foremost contributor to climate change.

An estimated 5 percent of the world’s palm oil is certified by The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an certifying organization established to improve environmental practices in the palm oil industry. While the RSPO has begun to tighten regulations of certified members on the issue if deforestation and peatland conversion a ban has yet to be implemented.

I purchase chocolate without palm oil. It is my silent stand to protect peatlands and our shared world climate.

Eat less water at your kitchen table!

Be well,

Florencia

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6 thoughts on “This Valentine’s Day Skip the Palm Oil Chocolate

  1. Carmen Ramirez says:

    Thank you Florencia….Palm Oil almost became an issue for oxnard when a major Japanese exporter wanted to build a refinery here in Oxnard a couple of years ago. I was gearing up to vote against it for all of the reasons you mention but also because these palm plantations are destroying habitat of many animals in including the orangutan, tiger and elephant of Borneo in particular. See:http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/stop-deforestation/palm-oil-and-forests.html

    “When these forests are lost, carbon is released into the atmosphere, driving global warming. The Sumatran orangutan, elephant, and tiger, all of which are critically endangered, as well the endangered Bornean orangutans and pygmy elephants, are being driven toward extinction as their habitat is converted into massive oil palm plantations.”

    Also I think palm oil is not the healthiest choice for us to consume. Best wishes! Carmen

    >

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  2. Florencia Ramirez says:

    Thank you for mentioning the devastating loss of biodiversity when forests and peatlands are lost. I saw an image of an orangutan suffering burns on most of its body during my research on the subject. I couldn’t bear to look at the image for more than a few seconds yet I have not forgotten.

    All our food ingredients have a source somewhere in the world and are attached to a story. The story of palm oil is a bad one on all fronts–water is just one of them.

    Thank you for the work you do in the world Carmen. Happy Valentine’s to you.

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  3. alvaradofrazier says:

    Palm oil is also risky for pregnant women, those who use blood thinners, and doctor’s advise patients not to consume if they will have a surgery within two weeks as it thought to lead to increased bleeding.
    Any suggestions for chocolate that doesn’t use palm oil?

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    • Florencia Ramirez says:

      I’ve noticed a pattern in my research on food and water; if the food production isn’t good for local water bodies it isn’t good for our own water body.

      I came across credible studies that discuss the negative health implications of palm oil. It is something we all need to be aware of given palm oil can be found in over half of processed food.

      I purchase organic and a fair trade certified chocolate exclusively, but I still look at the list of ingredients especially if it is a chocolate with a gooey center.

      Quality chocolate will use cocoa butter not palm oil. The chocolate pictured comes from a local chocolatier in Downtown Ventura. I called ahead to ask if she purchased certified ingredients and skipped the palm oil. I was happy to learn she did (her chocolate is decadent and beautiful). When I showed up in her shop, she told me I was only the second person to ask her that question in the years she had the shop.

      We need to ask what is inside our food to our producers whether chocolate or other food. When they choose ingredients sourced sustainably, show them our gratitude with our business, and a thank you.

      Happy Valentine’s Day Mona.

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  4. Sam says:

    Can you tell me, does palm oil often have any other names when listed as an ingredient? I want to avoid it but often can’t see it noted.
    Thanks!

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