The Center for Science in the Public Interest (best known as “those guys that fought to get trans fat listed on nutritional labels”) publish a newsletter called Nutrition Action. It’s a good read with solid scientific information about diet and health, often debunking or questioning claims behind supplements. It’s far from vegan, as they are often recommending dairy and meat, but that sort of makes sense since they’re focused solely on health. They never speak against a vegan diet, but I suppose they know their readership is primarily non-vegetarian.
However, in May 2006 I was very surprised to see a full-page ad for their campaign against palm oil. Palm oil is very prevalent in processed foods and isn’t exactly healthy, so it’s not unusual that they’re speaking out against it, but what surprised me is the angle they’re taking. Their main ad reads “DYING FOR A COOKIE?” and underneath says, “Palm oil production is killing orangutans and other endangered wildlife.” Their full report talks about palm oil’s detrimental effect on health, the environment, and wildlife. This is the first time that I can remember that the CSPI has made note of the animal suffering associated with any food product.
One danger they note is that with the new trans fat designation on nutrition labels, many companies are looking to switch away from partially hydrogenated oils. The danger is that they might move to palm oil.
If companies replaced the 2.5 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oil used annually in foods needing a solid fat with palm oil, U.S. palm oil imports would triple over the 2003 level. Such an increase would require about 1,240 square miles of new oil palm plantations—an area that represents rainforest habitat for up to 65 Sumatran rhinos, 54 elephant families, 65 Sumatran tigers, and 2,500 orangutans.
Good job, CSPI. Let’s see more of it in the future and it wouldn’t kill you to start mentioning vegetarian diets a bit more, would it?