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Northern Foods steps up to plate on sustainable palm

By Elaine Watson , 26-Jul-2010
Last updated on 26-Jul-2010 at 10:14 GMT

palm oil
palm oil

Northern Foods subsidiary Green Isle Foods has become the first food manufacturer to use a new pumpable shortening containing certified sustainable palm oil.

The Akofluid shortening , developed by AAK, contains a blend of rapeseed oil and straight refined palm oil that is fully-traceable from certified sustainable sources, plus a tiny percentage of a hard mixed-palm stearin fraction that is not (yet) available in a fully-traceable, certified form.

It will be used in Green Isle's frozen pastry products and follows Northern Foods’ commitment to convert all recipes and processes that currently use palm oil and derivatives to sustainably-produced materials.

The harder fraction is required to produce a shortening that is sufficiently firm for pastry but still low in saturated fat [at 15%, Alkofluid contains less than half the saturated fat in standard block shortenings].

Technical challenge

Given that the mid-fraction element of the shortening only represents a tiny proportion of the overall oils/fats blend, firms using it can claim that more than 90% the palm content in the product is directly from sustainable sources.

AAK has been supplying RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil to European food manufacturers since late 2008, but the derivatives commonly used in many food products require a more complex solution, said marketing boss Judith Murdoch.

While straight palm can be used in biscuit dough and some other food products, 60–70% of palm oil is sold as derivatives: palm fractions such as olein and stearin; fractions of olein and stearin; palm kernel oil (PKO) or PKO derivatives, which are then blended into bakery fats and other products, she said.

GreenPalm

However, firms using complex derivatives can still contribute to sustainable production by buying GreenPalm certificates (trading at www.greenpalm.org at around $15) guaranteeing that a tonnage of oil/derivatives equivalent to the tonnage they use has been produced from sustainable sources (approved plantations are allocated one certificate for every tonne produced.)

While this means users can’t guarantee that the physical oil they are buying is from an RSPO-approved plantation, they know the tonnage they use has been made sustainably.

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