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Palm oil board says British supermarket misleading consumers

Jakarta

THE Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), a palm oil board led by Indonesia and Malaysia, said British supermarket chain Iceland's decision to remove palm oil from its own-brand food products misleads consumers.

Iceland said last week that due to concerns over rainforest destruction, it would remove palm oil from all of its own-brand products by end-2018, reducing demand for the vegetable oil by more than 500 tonnes per year.

The claims being made against palm oil are "misleading the consumers on the environmental benefits of other vegetable oils," CPOPC executive director Mahendra Siregar said in a letter addressed to Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland.

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Mr Siregar confirmed the content of the letter, dated April 13, late on Sunday. CPOPC said demand for vegetable oil continues to grow and that replacing palm oil with other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, soyabeans and sunflower seeds, would lead to 10 to 20 times greater land use to produce the same amount of oil.

Iceland, which specialises in frozen food and operates around 900 stores, said it has already removed palm oil from half of its own-brand products.

A demand boom for widely used palm oil has led to palm plantations spread across 18 million hectares in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to data from the Indonesian government and Malaysia Palm Oil Board. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's largest and second-largest producers of palm oil.

Critics say the expansion has resulted in an increase in the greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

Palm plantations are also often blamed for forest fires that regularly take place on Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, blanketing large areas of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in a choking haze that can hang in the air for weeks. REUTERS

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