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Produce Show Daily Saturday, October 19, 2019 2 4 Rehabilitating Palm Oil's Reputation By Lorrie Baumann Neil Blomquist is on a quest to persuade consumers that palm oil isn't inherently either unhealthy or immoral. He's fight- ing his battles in a world in which his audience has already been bombarded with publicity that suggests otherwise. Palm oil came to dominate the veg- etable oil market after trans-fats were dis- covered to be harmful to human health, partly because, like coconut oil, it's a solid at room temperature and has a high smoke point and largely because the trees that produce the fruit from which the palm oil is made are so productive. Oil palm trees are six to 10 times more effi- cient at producing oil than oilseed crops such as canola, soybean, olive and sun- flower. A hectare of oil palms (about 2.5 acres) produces an average of about 3 tons of oil per year, and theoretical pro- ductivity is more than 8 tons of oil per year. Soybeans, the world's second-lead- ing source of vegetable oil, yield about half a ton of oil per hectare. In addition, oil palms are a permanent crop that does- n't have to be replanted every year. "You plant a tree, and you can harvest fruit from that tree for up to 40 years," Blomquist said. "It doesn't require annu- al replanting. Farmers are cutting fruit from the tree every week and get a con- stant flow of income." That productivity made the oil cheaper to produce than its alternatives, which made it a natural choice in 2006 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required food manufac- turers to declare trans fats on their prod- uct labels. Trans fats were banned from the nation's food supply in 2018, three years after the FDA ruled that they are unsafe to eat. Demand for the oil was also prompted by the passage of laws by Western nations in the mid-2000s to encourage the use of vegetable oils in fuels, which was supposed to reduce car- bon dioxide emissions and help curb global warming as well as cut the United States' dependence on foreign oil. The boom in demand for the oil led to widespread clearing of tropical rain forest to plant oil palms. Global palm oil production increased from 15.2 million tons in 1995 to 62.6 million tons in 2015, according to the European Palm Oil Alliance. Production is led by Indonesia and Malaysia, which are the leading exporters of palm oil worldwide. By 2018, more than 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian rain forest had been cleared, destroying about 80 percent of orangutan habitat and putting the apes on the World Wildlife Fund's critically endangered list. Fewer than 80,000 orangutans survive in the wild today, according to the WWF, and shrinking forest habitat in the region is also threatening elephants, the Sumatran Rhino and the Sumatran Tiger, all also critically endangered. Environmental organizations alarmed by the loss of wildlife habitat and by the cli- mate change impacts of widespread defor- estation began applying very public pres- sure to industrial users of palm oil. Under pressure from these powerful advocacy groups, some manufacturers and restaurant chains have eliminated palm oil from their recipes, other palm oil buyers have switched to palm oil that's certified not to have contributed to deforestation, and some are still embroiled in the controversy. The World Wildlife Fund provides an online scorecard that scores Ahold, the Delhaize Group, Walmart and Britain's Marks & Spencer with a perfect 9 out of 9 points on a scale that rewards companies for commitment to responsible sourcing of palm oil; Costco, Kroger and Target with a 2 score and Safeway with a 1. Among man- ufacturers, Ferrero, FrieslandCampina, Mars and Hershey all received perfect 9- point scores, while Smucker's got 4 points and Campbell's got 2. It's not all about shame and blame, though – the World Wildlife Fund is also a founding member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, which creates stan- dards for sustainable palm oil production and certifies qualified growers and processors. According to the WWF, about 20 percent of the world's palm oil is now certified sustainable by the RSPO. Blomquist is the Director of Innovation and Business Development for Natural Habitats, which produces palm oil in Ecuador, and he's a fan as well as an employee. He says that his compa- ny, a member of the RSPO, complies with the strictest RSPO standards to ensure that entire supply chain is fully traceable, that all of its oil is grown under sustain- able organic practices to protect the watershed and the soil and that Natural Habitats has also gone above and beyond by adopting social justice practices that protect the workers that produce the oil. He says that his company is one of three major producers in the world that protect both the environment and the indigenous communities in the tropical regions where the oil palm is cultivated. Natural Habitats calls its approach "Palm Done Right." The company is cur- rently sourcing its oil from 180 small Ecuadorian farms converted from conven- tional to organic agriculture. "There are new farmers in queue all the time because we're growing and need more oil," Blomquist said. "Our focus is on transi- tioning conventional farmers to organic." "When you look at the mill itself, we have a much more sustainable system: little to no waste, and water effluent is treated into a final water that you can grow tilapia in," he added. "When you press the oil, you get fiber, which is col- lected and used as fuel for the boilers." Ecuadorian law provides some pro- tection for the farmers, with labor laws that mandate a minimum wage and pro- vide for health care coverage for work- ers, but enforcement is spotty, Blomquist said, and so Palm Done Right also car- ries Fair for Life certification, which provides additional protection for both the workers who grow the oil palms and those who process the oil. "It's a much more transparent relationship with the workers," Blomquist said. "We make sure the farmers follow these higher level rules as well." Apple Blueberry Salsa Delivers Full New England Flavor Stonewall Kitchen gives Maine atti- tude to a Mexican classic with its new Apple Blueberry Salsa. The company has a history of expertise with fruit- inspired salsas, including its luscious Raspberry Salsa and smoky sweet Pineapple Chipotle Salsa. This new product is a perfect addition to the line, featuring tasty blueberries along with crisp apples – always New England favorites. The recipe starts with a base of tomatoes, sweet red peppers and a touch of jalapeño. Apples lend a smooth texture to the mix, with mildly sweet undertones. In the finished product, the blueberries remain whole and impart a hint of blue- berry flavor that is brightly sweet without being overwhelming. Dark red in color, this salsa is mild- ly spicy – a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 (Stonewall Kitchen's flaming hot Ghost Pepper Salsa gets a 10!), which makes it a quick and easy dip to offer at family gatherings like pool parties or barbe- cues. Serving possibilities abound for this exciting new offering. It's a great partner for chicken tacos, tostadas or taco salad, or try it atop a pork, cheddar and green apple quesadilla for a gourmet twist on a favorite lunch. Of course, you can't go wrong pairing this salsa with Stonewall Kitchen's crunchy and delicious Yellow Tortilla Chips. A sensational accompaniment to all kinds of snacks, this novel salsa brings two beloved Maine fruits together for a winning combination. For more information, call 888.326.5678 or go to www.stonewallkitchen.com.

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