Iceland blames ‘technical glitch’ for own-brand palm oil products listings

Supermarket Iceland has blamed a “technical glitch” for listing own-label products containing palm oil online after pledging to stop selling them by the end of 2018.

In April last year, the retailer promised that none of its own-label food lines would contain palm oil by the end of the year, reducing demand for the product by more than 500 tonnes per year.

But the BBC reported finding 28 own-brand products on the retailer’s website with ingredients lists stating they contained palm oil.

Iceland’s own-label fruited hot cross buns, currently available to buy online, listed ingredients as recently as Wednesday as including “Vegetable Oils (Palm, Rapeseed)”. This was later changed to read simply “Rapeseed Oil”.

Iceland’s own-label 12 iced fairy cakes, also listing palm oil among the ingredients, still appear on its website but are “currently unavailable”.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: “These are website issues. It is a technical glitch and obviously a massive own goal by us.

“But it’s not reality. I can reassure customers that we stopped the manufacture of own-brand products containing palm oil last year.”

Screenshot from Iceland website
Screenshot from Iceland website

In a statement, Iceland said: “We committed to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in Iceland own-label food by the end of 2018, and this promise has been fulfilled. No lines produced after December 31 2018 contain it as an ingredient.

“If there is fresh food on our website that is labelled as still containing palm oil, this is a website issue and our team are working quickly to resolve. There are no Iceland own-label fresh items available that still contain palm oil.

“To avoid food waste, some own-label lines made before we completed the removal of palm oil as an ingredient remain on sale until stocks are exhausted. These are mainly in the categories of frozen desserts and frozen pastry products, which obviously have a longer shelf life than fresh and chilled food lines.

“The number will vary from store to store depending on their rate of sale, which will also determine when their sell-through is completed. However, we would expect this to be achieved within the next few weeks.

“New stocks of these lines coming into stores that were made after December 31 2018 will be clearly marked with our ‘No Palm Oil’ flash.”

Iceland has advertised its “no palm oil” pledge extensively in stores and on social media.

It extended the campaign to its Christmas advert, receiving significant attention and praise from consumers after the short film, telling the story of an orangutan whose home had been destroyed by deforestation caused by the palm oil trade, was blocked due to UK legislation surrounding political messaging on TV.