Many of us will have enjoyed a slice of toast for our breakfast this morning, or perhaps made sandwiches for ourselves and our families.
There’s no doubt that bread is one of our favourite foods in the UK, with nearly 12 million loaves sold each day.
Unfortunately, many of us may not realise that our daily consumption of shop-bought bread could be contributing to deforestation and the destruction of animal habitats.
The majority of bread bought at supermarkets contains palm oil, a type of vegetable oil derived from palm fruit grown on oil palm trees.
Palm oil plantations are currently the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia, with a rainforest area the equivalent of 300 football fields being destroyed every hour (source).
The palm oil industry is one of the most unsustainable industries in the world, and its growth is catastrophic to the habitats of many species of animals.
Over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades.
Palm Oil – A Hidden Ingredient
Of course, most of us won’t have realised that our everyday loaf of bread contains this controversial ingredient.
Even if you’ve checked the list of ingredients in your bread, palm oil can be disguised under many alternative names, such as ‘palm stearine’ and ‘cetyl palmitate’, or sometimes hidden under the general term ‘vegetable oil’.
Traditionally we think of bread containing basic, natural ingredients – after all, you only need flour, yeast, water and a little salt to make a loaf. So why are so many brands adding palm oil to their bread?
Why Is Palm Oil Used in Bread?
Palm oil is the only vegetable oil which acts in a similar wat to butter, with an almost 50-50 composition of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Because it remains solid at room temperature, it is easy to bake with, and it’s very cheap too.
It also allows bread to stay soft and fresher on supermarket shelves for longer.
Which Bread Brands Use Palm Oil?
At the moment, many of the biggest bread brands and supermarkets still use palm oil in their baking.
Allied Bakeries (owner of Allinson, Burgen, Kingsmill and Sunblest) still use palm oil, as do Village Bakery, Robert’s, Hovis and many supermarket own brands such as Morrison’s and Tesco’s.
Many of these brands are working towards using sustainable palm oil in their bakery products, but some studies have found that so-called sustainable palm oil may not be much better for deforestation than regular palm oil production.
So, if we really are concerned about the effects of deforestation, it’s better to buy bread that contains no palm oil at all.
Read on to find out where you can buy palm oil free bread in the UK and even how to try making your own.
Which Breads Are Palm Oil Free in the UK?
Supermarket Iceland hit the headlines following their 2018 Christmas advert which tells the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production, and its devastating effect on endangered orangutans.
Iceland has also now removed palm oil from their own-brand foods, including their own bread.
You can buy Iceland’s own brand bread, including white, brown and malted varieties, from their website or in store.
Weight Watchers bread is already popular with those of us watching the scales and counting calories, but you might not be aware that all Weight Watchers bread is also palm oil free.
Weight Watchers bread is stocked in most supermarkets, so it’s easy to get hold of too.
Warburtons are one of the most recognised brands of bread in the UK. They still use palm oil in some products, but they received a best Ethical Consumer rating for their palm oil policy.
Warbutons currently have a range of gluten-free bread which is also free of palm oil, or you can try their Danish White, which is palm-oil free too.
Another place where you can buy palm-oil free bread is your local bakery or artisan market.
Fresh bread from local bakeries tends to be made from locally-sourced ingredients, and is less likely to contain palm-oil and other unnecessary additives (although you may wish to check the list of ingredients with the baker).
Buying palm-oil free bread locally means you’ll be helping the environment and supporting local businesses too.
Making Your Own Bread
One way to guarantee that your bread doesn’t contain palm-oil is to make your own!
It’s a lot easier than you might think, and inexpensive too.
We’ve included a basic bread recipe below, but you can make all kinds of varieties using different types of flour and ingredients.
Basic Bread Recipe:
You will need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 10g salt
- 7g sachet instant yeast – make sure you choose a palm oil free brand such as Bioreal
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 300ml cool water
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt together.
- Make a small hole in the centre and pour in the olive oil and water. Mix well.
- Knead for around 5-10 mins on a lightly floured work surface.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper. Gently mould the dough into a ball by knocking it inwards several times until all the air is knocked out.
- Place the dough inside a clean plastic bag to prove for another hour until doubled in size.
- Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.
- Bake for 25-30 mins or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Alternatively, you might want to try a bread machine (see some on Amazon here).
They’re relatively cheap to buy, and you can wake up to the smell of freshly baked palm oil free bread each morning.
Palm Oil Free Instant Yeast
Unfortunately, a lot of instant yeast contains the emulsifier sorbitan monostearate, which comes from palm oil.
Many popular brands of instant yeast including Doves Farm and Allinsons contain sorbitan monostearate at the time of writing.
Instant yeast is rarely marketed as “palm oil free”, so instead you will have to look for emulsifier-free and organic yeasts, which are less likely to contain palm oil.
One palm oil free brand of yeast is Bioreal Organic Active Dry Yeast, which is free from emulsifiers including sorbitan monostearate.
Another brand that doesn’t have sorbitan monostearate on the ingredients list is Saf Levure Active Dried Yeast. This yeast just has ‘Yeast’ on the ingredients list, so it should be palm oil free.