Are Oreos Vegan?
According to the Oreos website, no.
While the biscuits do not contain ingredients derived from animals, there is a potential for cross contamination (of milk) because of the manufacturing methods used.
So Not Vegan, But Healthy?
I think we can all agree that there is no nutrition in these biscuits.
The above is taken from the Oreos website. The biscuits are high in calories, high in fat (half in the form of saturated fats) and low in protein. They also contain large amounts of sugar. For example, a single Oreo biscuit contains 4.1 grams of sugar. Meaning there is a teaspoon of sugar in every 4 Oreos biscuits.
The biscuits also contain very low levels of fibre (great for protecting against certain digestive and bowel cancers) and no vitamins or minerals which are essential for optimal health.
Oreos and Palm Oil
Are Oreos vegan? That is a slightly contentious question. Some vegans would argue yes, as the biscuits don’t directly contain animal products. Others would argue no because of the of cross contamination.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
For me, the ingredient that absolutely makes Oreos non-vegan is palm oil.
But what is palm oil and why is it not vegan?
What is Palm Oil?
- Palm oil comes from palm fruit, which are grown on palm trees. So essentially, palm oil is a type of vegetable oil.
- It is grown in South America, North America, Asia, and Africa.
- Although grown throughout the world, palm oil is predominantly made in Malaysia and Indonesia (where 85% of all palm oil is made).
- The problem with palm oil harvesting today, is that most of the time it is produced in non-sustainable ways.
Palm Oil Environmental Impacts
- Palm Oil deforestation dramatically impacts delicate ecosystems.
- It is generally acknowledged by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, that the unsustainable palm oil industry is the main reason why 1/3rd of all mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered.
- The species impacted most by the palm oil production is the Orangutan. In the last quarter of a century, over 90% of their habitat has been destroyed. As a result, the species is now endangered.
- But the Orangutan is only one of thousands of species that have been severely impacted through the production of palm oil.
- Palm oil production in Indonesia is the main reason that the continent is now in the top 3 greenhouse emitters in the world.
Palm Oil & The Animals
- As stated above, it’s not only the Orangutan that has been severely impacted by palm oil production. There are well over a quarter of a million species found in Indonesian rainforests that have been maimed, killed or lost their homes due to palm oil production.
- This displacement of species has directly pushed the animals into the hands of smugglers and poachers. The smuggling industry is now booming.
- The mass deforestation in Indonesia is now not only an environmental catastrophe, but also a wildlife catastrophe.
- It is estimated that over 50,000 Orangutans have died in Indonesia because of palm oil harvesting and production.
- Tigers, rhinos, elephants, monkeys and many large cat species are also facing extinction.
Palm Oil & The Locals
- Many business leaders and government officials (in Indonesia) view palm oil production as a positive. Some of the poorest regions have seen greater development than at any time in history.
- But while some areas have been developed and some people have been employed, many groups of people have been used and abused by the palm oil industry.
- The region has some of the worst human rights and child labour records in the world.
- Children have been forced into working long hours for little or no pay.
- Because plantations are now the only form of work in many regions, many locals are finding they have no choice but to work in the palm oil industries. This has enabled businesses to lower wages which has forced many families into severe poverty.
I Thought Oreos Were Using Sustainable Palm Oil?
A few years back Oreos joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after growing pressure from some of its customers.
RSPO was formed in 2004 to promote the use of sustainable palm oil through credible global standards.
The goal was to produce palm oil that was sustainable, had a minimal environmental footprint, that protected workers’ rights and had animal rights at its heart.
So what’s the problem?
- RSPO certification allows companies to clear any forest space that isn’t deemed to have a “high conservation value (HCV)”. Therefore, large scale deforestation continues in certain areas.
- The RSPO bans companies from creating fires to clear land. This enforcement hasn’t worked. The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have released numerous maps and satellite images detailing how hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are still being burned down every year.
- The RSPO seems powerless (or not willing) to act on such blatant breaches.
- “Dirty Palm Oil” is still being traded by RSPO members because of traceability issues.
- Therefore, consumers are still buying products (such as oreos) because they believe that the palm oil is sustainable, when in reality, the RSPO’s main supply chain systems do not lead to “clean palm oil”.
For further information on the subject of “sustainable” palm oil, read this report, by Greenpeace.
Conclusion – Are Oreos Vegan?
For me its a no.
Even if I could look past the cross-contamination potential, I certainly can’t turn a blind eye to the palm oil element.