palm oil free christmas food

Where to Buy Palm Oil Free Mince Pies This Christmas

palm oil free christmas food

Crumbly pastry that melts in the mouth, juicy berries with a hint of spice, the tang of brandy.  Served hot and drizzled with cream, nothing quite says Christmas like a mince pie.  This seemingly simple festive snack is available in every supermarket, but it has a complex journey involving many people, businesses and resources.  But it’s a one ingredient – palm oil – which links this humble pie to deforestation, human rights abuses and climate change.

Georgina Rawes from Ethical Consumer looks into the issues behind palm oil production and shares her top five palm oil free mince pies.

The problem with palm oil

Palm oil is found in around half of all packaged foods and in many other household items, from cleaners to cosmetics.  It is cheap, widely available and solid at room temperature, making it an appealing fat for manufacturers to use.

In mince pies, palm oil is found in the vegetable suet used to make the mincemeat.  It gives the juicy filling the firm and creamy texture that we all love.  But, there is a bitter and unpleasant story behind this popular ingredient.

Over 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, across 16 million acres of land.  As plantations grow to meet demand, they claim rainforest, razing them to gain valuable farmland.  In fact, palm oil plantations are one of the leading causes of deforestation, forcing indigenous people from their homes and threatening endangered species living in these diverse ecosystems.

As rainforests are cleared, carbon dioxide is released.  In fact, deforestation accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to global warming.

This in particularly pronounced in Indonesia, as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that 98% of Indonesia’s rainforests may be gone in the next four years.

As well as the clear issues involved in deforestation, palm oil production is riddled with supply chain management issues.  There are an estimated 3.5 million workers employed on Indonesian and Malaysian plantations where child labour and modern-day slavery still occur.

What about sustainable palm oil?

Many products now state that they contain sustainable palm oil.  Whilst this seems to be a good thing, the reality is more complicated.

Certification groups, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have been criticised for not going far enough to ensure that members are acting responsibly and there are RSPO members who have been exposed as having environmental abuses and human rights issues in their palm oil supply chains.  So, where products seem to contain sustainable palm oil that is not linked to deforestation, this might not actually be the case.  Action groups such as Sum of Us, are campaigning for RSPO to vote to adopt a no deforestation, no peatland, no exploitation certification system.

palm oil free mince pies

Picking the perfect palm oil free mince pie

Whilst campaigners continue to put pressure on the palm oil industry to clean up its act, we recommend avoiding this problem ingredient for now.  Happily, when it comes to mince pies, we have found a great palm oil free selection.  Check out of our top five palm oil free mince pies:

Waitrose Duchy Organic Mince Pies

Organic and made with sunflower oil instead of palm oil, these pies come in 100% recyclable packaging and are priced at £2.50 for four. Available from Waitrose online and in store.

Marks & Spencer Mini Mince Pie Selection

Perfect for parties, these mini versions of a classic come in three varieties.  They contain rapeseed oil and are suitable for vegetarians, and cost £16.00 for 36.  Available from Marks & Spencer online and in store.

Authentic Bread Company Luxury Mince Pies with All Butter Pastry

These handmade mince pies are equally at home on the dinner table as they are beside a cup of tea.  Beautifully finished, they are made with sunflower oil and are available through organic retailer Abel & Cole at £5.39 for a pack of six.

The Organic Collection Organic Mince Pies

These pies contain no additional fats in the mincemeat, only fruity fillings.  They are available through ethical online retailers Real Foodspriced at £5.95 for six pies.

Artisan Bread Organic Mince Pies

Organic, vegan and gluten-free, these mince pies tick all the boxes.  They contain no added sugar and are made with cold-pressed olive oil in place of palm oil.  Available online at Artisan Bread Organicat £5.25 for a pack of six.

For more information on palm oil, check out our full special report.  And to learn how to avoid palm oil in your Christmas shop, see our guide to a palm oil free Christmas.

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New Bathroom Plans

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So, this month we got the incredibly exciting news that we finally have all the permissions in place to build an extension on to our house.  It’s taken us just shy of two years to even get to this stage where we can finally organise builders to come round to give us quotes.  We got planning permission well over 12 months ago, but things really lagged with Building Standards.

In the end it took a whole extra year after gaining planning permission to gain the Building Warrant, for what is the tiniest extension in the world – an upstairs bathroom that will be built on top of our existing single storey vestibule.

To be honest, in the summer time we were pretty sure we would never get to this stage and we had resigned ourselves to the fact it was never going to happen!  But here we are, two years in, ready to go!

So, what’s our plans for the bathroom?  Well, first things first, insulation.  Our old house is freezing, and our current bathroom is the coldest room in the house, so we are planning on insulating the flip out of the upstairs one.

Secondly, we have done our time living in windowless bathrooms, and while needs must sometimes, we are making sure this bathroom has a window.  As the bathroom will be upstairs, adjacent to the existing loft conversion, we’re planning on adding a VELUX window to the bathroom ceiling.  VELUX do triple glazed ones for extra energy efficiency, and prices are really reasonable for triple glazing – starting from just £629.  We’ll obviously add a blind for privacy: I’ve found VELUX specific blinds here.

Our house has a terrible condensation problem, which we are hoping to help resolve by adding ventilation to our roof,  but we’ll also add an extractor fan to help minimise the condensation problem.  Finally we’ll add energy efficient LED lighting.

Exterior wise – we’re cladding the extension in wood.  I’m not sure exactly what wood yet – but we are seriously considering Scottish grown larch at the moment for it’s sustainability and localness.

Beyond the actual practicalities of the bathroom, we haven’t put any thought at this stage into how we want it to look.  We didn’t want to get carried away before the permissions were in place just in case it all fell through, so have no idea design wise.

There are a couple of key points we’re keen to incorporate – water saving and recycling.   We will look at a water saving shower head, and water saving toilets.  Recycling wise – we have metres of tiles left over from fitting our kitchen and downstairs bathroom a couple of years ago so I plan on reusing them, and we may even look at some kind of upcycled sink.  Beyond that I do not know but I will keep you posted once we start!  Unfortunately the building work won’t be happening any time soon – it’s looking like it will go ahead in summer time.

The other exiting thing is that it means that we can finally sort out the rest of our house too – we have four rooms that are done or are almost done, and the rest of the house is stuck in a 1990’s time warp, a rather scrappy 1990’s time warp at that – with us unwilling to do work on them as we know that they will be quite heavily impacted on by the building works.

Exciting times ahead!