Claim- Food ‘journalist’ Joanna Blythman claims that food manufacturers should ‘eliminate palm oil’ because it is the ‘dirtiest ingredient on our shelves’.


Blythman has a habit of dog-whistling on food. She’s gone after quinoa previously, only to have her story debunked by economists. She’s hounded respected academics for publishing research on organic food that she disagreed with, and drawn ire from medical researchers for her ‘emotional’ approach to organics.

Blythman claims that palm oil is a ‘driver of rainforest destruction’. As has been pointed out by a range of research papers, other commodities such as beef, soybean and maize have a much larger deforestation footprint than palm oil. Dr Doug Boucher of the Union of Concerned Scientists went so far as to say that companies and NGOs “have had our priorities wrong” on deforestation and palm oil.

On the environment more broadly, Blythman is off the mark. Even NGOs such as WWF state that the “production of sugarcane has probably caused a greater loss of biodiversity on the planet that any other single crop.”

Blythman is happy to extol the virtues of Italian tinned tomatoes. Is she going to follow through and call for a boycott given reports on the exploitation of immigrant workers in Italy? Or a boycott of chocolate because of ongoing child labour problems with cocoa?

Does Blythman genuinely care about child labour, working conditions and gender equality among farmers in Southeast Asia? Or does she only care about denigrating palm oil and pandering to a well-heeled and biased Western middle-class audience, who think that boycotting palm oil – and eating rustic Italian tomatoes — will magically solve these problems?