Milk powder, palm oil away! 27,500 signatures in three months


In just three months, 27,500 signatures were collected in support of the Petition to eliminate palm oil from milk powder, launched by Great Italian Food Trade and Il Fatto Alimentare on to persuade manufacturing companies to change recipes in a way that respects children’s health. In fact, the inexpensive tropical fat carries carcinogens in milk for infants. And eliminating it can be done, as shown by the most conscientious producers.

The appeal is explicitly addressed to the big names in the powdered milk industry: Mellin, Nutricia, Ordesa, Hipp, Humana, Milte, Nestlé, Unifarm, Sterilfarma, Nipiol, Menarini, Alter Laboratories, Plasmon, and Holle. Only Plasmon is beginning to move, creating its own palm oil-free line.


Carcinogenic contaminants in palm oil

As documented in the May 3, 2016 EFSA opinion, palm oil carries a number of carcinogenic contaminants in milk powder (and any food in which it is used).

The European Food Safety Authority writes, “Carcinogenic and genotoxic substances present in palm oil due to industrial refining processes are indeed dangerous. The amounts of these contaminants, in the tropical fat, are up to ten times higher than in other vegetable oils.”

This is a serious risk that major industries have known about since at least 2004, without remedying it.


The invasion of palm in baby milk

The Italian Society of Pediatrics (SIP) in 2013 had documented that out of 52 formula milks only 7 contained no palm oil. A scenario that has only been evident in the eyes of consumers since December 2014, when European Regulation 1169/2011 obliged companies to specify the type of oil used, until then generically referred to on the label as “vegetable oil.” Revealing that almost all brands of milk powder employ the inexpensive vegetable fat.


Profit before health?

Even today, palm oil is used in almost all brands of milk powder.

The industry justifies its use either by the need to obtain a fat composition appropriate to the nutritional needs of infants, or by the advantage of obtaining a more stable product.

These are the same, weak arguments put forward by manufacturers of cookies and snacks who eventually modified recipes to avoid losing market share (as Barilla did with its entire Mulino Bianco product range).

Employing palm oil in milk powder, in fact, is a choice dictated only by economic reasons. A form of cost-saving for industries, but one that poses a serious threat to the health of young children.


A bad fat with humans and the environment

In addition to health hazards, palm oil is the main motive for land grabbing and deforestation still underway to expand oil palm plantations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. And it is responsible for CO2 emissions caused by deforestation fires that make the air unbreathable in and around Malaysia, Indonesia.


The alternative exists

Replacing palm oil with another fat is possible. This is evidenced by several brands of milk powder sold in Italy, which use blends of other vegetable oils such as extra virgin olive, sunflower, canola or coconut.

Palm oil-free brands are Bimbosan, Coop, Sicura and Dicofarm, sometimes sold at a lower price than those with palm oil. An offering that for the past few months has also included a new line from Plasmon.

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