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New oil palm standard for Food & Drink licensees

New oil palm standard for Soil Association Certification Food & Drink licensees

The Soil Association (SA) has published a new food and drink standard (and corresponding sourcing requirement) for products of the oil palm tree. It will come into force from July 2023.

The intention of this new standard is to apply key elements of the Soil Association Farming & Growing Standard 2.1.7 Maintaining High Conservation Values throughout the supply chain. This is a next step to protect valuable species and ecosystems – which we call High Conservation Values (HCVs) – in Soil Association supply chains.

SA higher standard 6.6.13 (GB) or 6.6.14 (NI) will apply to single-ingredient oil palm products that you (or your subcontractors) purchase and sell/repack or further process. Products of the oil palm tree include: palm oil; palm kernel oil; and palm derivatives such as palm olein, palm stearin or E422 glycerol (palm) / glycerine (palm).

From July 2023, oil palm products you (or your subcontractor) purchase will need to hold an additional certification, for example RSPO Identity Preserved or Segregated. See SA standard 6.6.13/14 for full details of certifications recognised by the Soil Association for verifying the protection of High Conservation Values. Oil palm products you purchase that are certified to Soil Association food and drink standards will meet the requirements of the new standard.

The oil palm standard does not apply to:

  • multi-ingredient products that you (or your subcontractor) purchase, that may contain oil palm ingredients, for example bought-in margarine

  • non-organic additives (for example, tocopherol/ E306 tocopherol-rich extract), non-organic flavourings, solvents or processing aids

  • products such as glycerine if they are not derived from oil palm. For example, glycerine can be derived from other plants such as soybean or coconut. However, you will be expected to provide evidence that the product you purchase is not derived from the oil palm.

  • palm oil in cleaning products you may use.

We are providing a lead-in period of several months, after which you must comply with this standard. As this standard exceeds the EU and GB organic regulations, if you change your supplier of oil palm products you will need to update your product specification, and seek our approval prior to use, as outlined previously in Certification Updates and in standard 6.10.1.

Expansion of agriculture globally has resulted in the destruction of millions of hectares of forests and other natural or important ecosystems to make way for farming, with negative impacts on biodiversity, climate and indigenous peoples. Growing oil palm is an area of agriculture that has been highlighted as higher risk, and this requirement adds an additional safeguard to protect HCVs.

Publication of this standard follows an in-depth standards consultation which explored its implications for our food and drink licence holders, alongside the views of environmental NGOs, retailers, standard setters, and certifiers. The standard been developed in conjunction with our expert ‘Task & Finish Group on Deforestation’ and approved by our independent Soil Association Standards Board.