UK frozen food supermarket chain Iceland has pledged to remove palm oil from all its own-brand food products by the end of 2018 due to the “unsustainable” status of the oil.

Having already removed palm oil from more than a half of its 130 own-label products, the company was now investing £5M (US$7M) to become the first major UK supermarket chain to completely do away with palm oil, BusinessGreen wrote on 9 April.

Since the beginning of the year, Iceland had introduced 100 new palm oil-free product lines and was looking to double that number by the start of 2019.

The firm claimed that the move would reduce the demand for palm oil by more than 500 tonnes/year.

It would replace the palm oil with alternatives such as sunflower and rapeseed oil or butter, depending on the requirements of each product.

Richard Walker, Iceland managing director, said the move was motivated by the company’s belief that there was no verifiably sustainable palm oil currently available on the mass market and it wanted to demonstrate to the “wider food industry” that it was possible to curb palm oil demand.

“Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no’ to palm oil,” Walker summarised.

According to Reuters, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) protested the decision, with CPOPC executive director Mahendra Siregar sending a letter to Walker saying that Iceland was “misleading consumers on the environmental benefits of other vegetable oils”.

CPOPC said the demand for other vegetable oils to replace palm oil would lead to 10-20 times greater land use to produce the same amount of oil.