Mmmm! Doughnuts. Not-mmmm: Palm oil
Since June 6 is National Doughnut Day, let’s start with a definition. Doughnut: An ineffectively slow means of killing oneself to end the torture of interminable office meetings.
But it turns out that doughnuts are so much more efficient than I assumed, because they are coated with palm oil. Palm oil is often the second ingredient, after flour. Which means that, in addition to killing you, they also kill orangutans and tigers, while emitting tons of greenhouse gases!
Actually this may have started when doughnut makers were trying to kill you a little less. Doughnuts used to be fried in trans fats, but after the FDA cracked down on those last year, many companies have started using palm oil instead.
That may seem a bit tough on those bakers who just want to fry their dough in something deliciously artery-clogging. Are we setting the maple bar a little too high?
Not really. It’s entirely possible to get palm oil without destroying rainforests, and a lot of companies are.
“The vegetable oil industry is in the midst of a revolution away from deforestation,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chair of Forest Heroes Campaign. Last December, the Asian agribusiness giant Wilmar International instituted a no deforestation policy, and since then there’s similar commitments coming in from companies every couple of weeks, said Hurowitz. Companies like Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Mars, Safeway, Ferrero Rocher, and Unilever are now working to insure that their supply chains do not drive deforestation.
But major doughnut suppliers — Tim Hortons, Krispy Kreme, and Dunkin’ Donuts — haven’t signed on. Which means they are probably getting palm oil from ag companies like Cargill, IOI Loders Croklaan, and Bunge, which buy palm oil from people cutting down rainforests, Hurowitz said.
When eaters make it clear that they don’t want food that destroys forests, they get results. There’s been a major decline in Brazilian deforestation, thanks in part to pressure from consumers. Doughnuts could be supporting sustainable economies in southeast Asia. Then I could happily go back to killing myself with those fluffy little nuggets.