By Thomas Jang
In the US, Halloween is a holiday centered around trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and most significantly, candy. From Kit-Kat to Snickers to Skittles, these candies have helped create a distinct culture around and likeness towards sugary foods at this time of the year. But behind their sweet tastes and aromas lurks a dark secret: the destruction of forests and habitats for palm oil extraction. According to the Global Forest Watch, the world’s last intact forests are becoming increasingly fragmented, which poses a threat to species distribution and vagility, which is when organisms can move around freely. Between 2000 and 2020, intact forests have seen their size drop by 12% and by 155 million hectares. The leading causes of deforestation have been fires and creation of roads for companies to extract timber, oil and gas.
With Global Forest Watch’s database that tracks deforestation, as well as palm oil concessions, plantations and mills, it is alarmingly visible that these anthropogenic activities are prominent in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, particularly on the island of Borneo. Concessions, which have spread throughout the Malay Archipelago and surrounding region, are grants extended by the governments to allow companies to extract certain materials within an area on palm oil plantations. 39 percent of the world’s oil palm is produced by Malaysia. The International Organization for Migration reports that migrant workers are victims of debt bondage, passport retention, and shady recruitment processes.
However, Canada recently announced a social media campaign to pressure candy companies to use sustainable palm oil. Several of these members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil include: Haribo, Ferrero, Lindt, Mars, Hormel Foods, and The Hershey Company. Several candy brands that do not contain palm oil include mini Candy Corn, Dots, Dum Dums Original Pops, Jolly Rancher hard candies, Nerds, and barkTHINS. Some steps to become more conscious and sustainable consumers while celebrating Halloween can be checking labels and seeking out sustainable brands of candies and chocolates.