The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
WHO's Push to Ban Trans Fats Could Pave Way for Palm Oil
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced an initiative to ban artificial trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. This goal is a worthy endeavor, as the intake of trans fats has led to the deaths of 500,000 people from cardiovascular disease per year, according to WHO estimates.
However, if governments adopt this measure, it could inadvertently ramp up the use of an environmentally destructive replacement—unsustainable palm oil.
Artificial trans fats are usually made by "hydrogenating" vegetable oils, which turns them solid at room temperature and increases shelf life. Palm oil has many similar qualities that food manufacturers like, including low costs, shelf-stability and a creamy texture.
Palm oil is now one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils on Earth, and lurks in everyday foods where trans fats used to be.
"Companies often use palm oil as a replacement for partially hydrogenated vegetable fats," Laure d'Astorg, secretary general of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil said, as quoted by Mongabay.
D'Astorg added that it is a "much healthier substitute."
The decreasing use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils has already been linked to a boom in palm oil imports to the U.S. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 2012, U.S. imported around seven times as much palm oil as it had in 1999, the year the FDA first proposed mandatory labeling. The U.S. palm oil market is set to increase 20 percent per year, Mongabay reported.
Unfortunately, palm oil is also one of the world's leading drivers of deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. Production has destroyed habitats of endangered species, displaced indigenous communities, and caused destruction of peatlands that emit climate-warming carbon dioxide.
The New York Times editorial board on Monday welcomed the WHO's push to eliminate trans fats as a measure that will save countless lives.
However, the board also suggested that regulators reduce the use of palm oil by encouraging the use of saturated fats like butter or with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, like olive oil.
"Governments will have to take care in phasing out trans fats, because some alternatives could cause other problems," the board wrote.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.
Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.