saturated fat

Khor Reports - fast/snack food watch: Macdonalds in Singapore - trimming palm oil for canola and sun blends

20 October 2015: Mcdonald's starts to offer all-day breakfast

Editor's note: Not sure about Southeast Asia.

Four Reasons McDonald's All-Day Breakfast Is A Headache for Franchisees - Breakfast sandwiches are cheaper than many of McDonald’s other burgers and chicken sandwiches, so by offering full-time breakfasts, McDonald's has essentially created a new lower-priced alternative to its lunch and dinner fare. In Chicago, for instance, an Egg McMuffin is $3.29, a Big Mac is $4.39, and a grilled chicken sandwich is $4.79. Hash browns also sell for 19¢ less than a small order of fries. If customers decide they want eggs for lunch instead of a burger, total sales figures will drop. "We are trading customers down from regular menu to lower-priced breakfast items," said a franchisee in the Nomura survey....;

4 August 2015: Checking out breakfast at Mcdonalds in Singapore.  The cheapest set option is SGD 3 (the lowest price set in Malaysia would be RM 4;  SGD3=RM8.40 @2.80).  Tea comes with (real) milk and Rainforest Alliance Lipton tea bag. Note they use a canola blend oil on sat (saturated) fats health concerns and par frying is done with sunflower blend. Thus, Nuggets get 30 pct less sat fats.
source: Khor Reports blog, 4 August 2015 at Macdonalds in Singapore

Trade policy on palm oil: Fratini Vergano- WTO Environmental Goods Agreement does not include "green by definition, such as commodities...'; WHO Interim Report on Ending Childhood Obesity calls for taxes and marketing restrictions to tackle child obesity

Subject: Trade Perspectives by FratiniVergano - European Lawyers Date: 3 Apr 2015 02:54
Issue No. 7 of 2 April 2015
*             The Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations continue to progress despite the lack of participation by key countries
*             Trade facilitation developments to take place at the multilateral and regional levels by the end of 2015
*             WHO Interim Report on Ending Childhood Obesity calls for taxes and marketing restrictions to tackle child obesity
*             Recently Adopted EU Legislation

The Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations continue to progress despite the lack of participation by key countries; During the week of 16 March 2015, representatives from the 17 WTO Members that are currently taking part in the negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement (hereinafter, EGA), gathered in Geneva to participate in the fifth round of negotiations. These negotiations are directed to the conclusion of a new plurilateral agreement aimed at promoting green growth and sustainable development by liberalising trade in environmental goods..... EGA negotiations intend to build on the efforts made in the context of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (hereinafter, APEC), where, already back in 2012, its 21 Member Economies agreed on a list of 54 environmental goods for which they would reduce import tariffs to 5 percent ad valorem or less by 2015. The APEC list focusses on machinery and electronic products used for environmental protection (such as parts and components of various ‘green’ manufacturing items, products related to waste processing or disposal, and instruments for testing and analysing samples) and is based on 6-digit level HS codes (see Trade Perspectives Issue No. 14 of 11 July 2014). Apart from its limited coverage, the APEC list appears to be of limited accuracy, to the extent that it includes machinery and high-tech goods that, although designed for environment-friendly uses, may not necessarily be the result of an environment-friendly production process. In order to ensure that the list of covered products under the EGA does not suffer from the same shortcomings as the APEC list, it appears necessary that additional criteria (possibly relating to the very products’ sustainability) be established.........The EGA will apply on a most-favoured nation (i.e., MFN) basis, meaning that all WTO Members (including those which did not participate to the negotiating process) will benefit from the agreed tariff reductions once a ‘critical mass’ of WTO Members has agreed to participate. Negotiations were triggered in July 2014 by 14 WTO Members (i.e., Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, the EU, Hong Kong China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and the US). As of March 2015, 3 more WTO Members (i.e., Iceland, Israel and Turkey) have joined the negotiations, and are, therefore, in a position to drive the process.
The fifth negotiating round reportedly concluded with a compilation of the proposals put forward by most EGA participants on the products that should benefit from duty-relief. In total, countries have proposed that the EGA cover around 600 tariff lines
, divided into a number of categories (relating to, inter alia, air pollution control, waste management, environmental remediation and clean-up, noise and vibration abatement, cleaner renewable energy, energy efficiency and environment monitoring assessment). In practice, these categories include goods as diverse as bicycles, windmills, solar panels, LED monitors, hydro-electric generating equipment, isolation material, water treatment chemicals, and advanced products for waste management and air pollution mitigation. Against this background, it is, at the very least, surprising that the proposed goods do not include goods that are ‘green’ by definition, such as commodities (e.g., palm oil, soybeans, sugarcane and rapeseed) that are available in nature and which can be used, inter alia, for renewable energy production (such as biofuels, which provide for substantial emission reductions when compared to fossil fuels)...........

WHO Interim Report on Ending Childhood Obesity calls for taxes and marketing restrictions to tackle child obesity; In March 2015, the World Health Organisation (hereinafter, WHO) released an Interim Report through its Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, which calls for taxation and restricted marketing of ‘unhealthy’ foods and drinks to children, in order to help cut childhood obesity. The purview of ‘unhealthy’ foods includes foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats and salt, as well as sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages and energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. The WHO Report outlines potential policy options that governments could consider through fiscal policies (such as taxes to reduce the intake of ‘unhealthy’ foods and sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages), the increased intake of healthy foods, and the promotion of physical activity in children and adolescents. The WHO Report further indicates that governments could also take action to implement restrictions on the marketing of ‘unhealthy’ foods to children and adolescents.
According to the WHO Report, addressing childhood obesity requires attention to both developmental (i.e., life-course) and environmental considerations. With respect to the latter, important factors include exposure to inappropriate infant and young child feeding, and the influence of the marketing of ‘unhealthy’ foods directly to children.
The WHO considers that no single intervention can halt the rise of the growing obesity epidemic. Therefore, actions that address both the so-called ‘obesogenic’ environment and developmental factors are required.........

Singapore introduces canola subsidy to cut its palm oil consumption (update 1)

3 August 2014:

EU Report Taxes on High Sugar Salt or Fat Products do Lead To Reduced Consumption, 29 Jul 2014; "The study was able to confirm a number of impacts of food taxes on the agri-food sector competitiveness. Food taxes lead to an increase in administrative burden, notably if the tax is levied on ingredients or if the rules defining which products are liable under the tax are highly differentiated and complicated... The degree to which individual competitiveness is affected is highly influenced by the product category that is taxed (as brand loyalty may be strong enough to prevent consumer switching) and by whether many similar products escape tax (which makes substitution to non-taxed products easier).... A common argument against food taxes is that they raise the price of goods relative to the prices of the same goods in neighbouring countries where no such tax exists and thereby promote cross-border shopping. However, the study found that increases in cross border shopping were rather limited and that other factors, in particular other taxes on food/drinks, are more important drivers for the cross-border shopping effect...."

Food taxes are gaining more interest, including on sugar. Some news links here: /khorreports-palmoil/2014/06/sugar-food-tax-ideas.html

Responses from some readers from the palm oil industry to the Singapore news article include:
  • Reader A: "They imply saturated fats are bad at ANY amount. People should be educated to realise that BALANCE is important. MPOB and Brandeis university came up with the optimal formula, which was marketed by Smart Balance to great success and this formulation comprised equal proportions of saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated oils. In other words, saturated fats are required but the proportion must be correct. A simple analogy to illustrate the importance of of balance in so many things we do. Exercise is beneficial, but if one were to exercise without adequate rest, that would not be good. Same goes for saturated fats. Studies have shown that saturated fats in palm oil does not seem to have same effect as other saturated fats in clogging arteries etc. This observation has not been explained scientifically yet. Past data on saturated fats were associated with animal fats (vegetable oils only displaced lard etc in a big way starting about 40 years ago). Palm oil (and other vegetable oils) saturated fats have slightly different molecular structure, and scientists think this may be the reason why why palm oil saturated fat does not display have adverse effect on health as animal saturated fats do."
  •  Reader B: "I am not a human nutrition expert, a notoriously difficult science,  but  from the MPOC website, I saw this apparently positive set of results from an experiment at UM and also  there has already been a response which appear to indicate that it may be wrong to push that the cooking oil blend pushed by the Singaporean authorities is healthier. Furthermore there is this statement on MPOC's website " Malaysian red palm oil has a neutral effect on cholesterol. Its effects on blood cholesterol levels are similar to olive oil, and better than common cooking oil blends." However it appears specifically to refer only to red palm oil and not the usual refined product." 

2 August 2014:
Ever since French legislators proposed a "Nutella Tax" on palm oil and it was defeated, palm oil producers breathed easier. However, a recent move by Singapore, the key financial and trading hub for Southeast Asia (located alongside mega palm oil producers Indonesia and Malaysia) questions the health aspects of palm oil and uses a subsidy (instead of a tax) to make canola oil more attractive to be blended for cooking oil usage in the city state. Analysts worry that this move by Singapore, with its well regarded bureaucracy, sends a negative signal. It is not only developed markets looking at "fat taxes" or its variants. A 2013 paper by Basu et al.* in the British Medical Journal notes that 43% of India's current population consume palm oil in their home; the paper looks into the cost-benefit of taxes to constrain palm oil usage in India. For pricing reasons, alternative oils have recently been gaining some ground in India. 
*They simulate the effects that a 20% food tax on palm oil would have on serum cholesterol and mortality from coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease in India. The modeling approach combines an economic model of household consumption with a health micro simulation model that translates changes in oil consumption arising from the tax into changes in mortality from myocardial infarction and stroke.
News item: HPB to Subsidise Healthier Cooking Oil at Food Joints Oil subsidies to promote healthier fare at food joints - HPB wants food outlets to buy palm-canola mix of cooking oil By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2014; "TO MAKE eating out healthier for food-loving Singaporeans, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) will be spending millions a year on subsidies to get food joints to use healthier oil. Starting this month, the HPB will absorb the difference in cost between palm oil - which is generally used by food outlets - and a healthier mix of palm and canola oil, which costs 20 per cent to 30 per cent more. The HPB is subsidising wholesale oil suppliers to get them to sell the healthier mix to restaurants, hawker stalls and other food outlets at the same price as palm oil. The aim is to get 20 per cent of food outlets to switch from palm oil to the canola mix by 2020. Palm oil is the cheapest cooking oil and costs around $6 to $8 for a two-litre bottle in retail shops. But it has 50 per cent saturated fat, clogs up the arteries and can lead to heart attacks and stroke. The canola and palm oil mix reduces the fat saturation to 38 per cent. The HPB hopes that this will make a huge difference to diners' health - provided they do not use it as an excuse to eat more deep-fried food. Said Mr Zee Yoong Kang, HPB's chief executive officer: "By the time the oil gets down to the individual plate, we're being literally poisoned for one or two cents a plate. "But if you sell 5,000 plates, it makes an appreciable difference to the bottom line."..... Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had said in Parliament last week that the Government would work with community partners to make healthy living as "effortless as possible".... Ms Ong (of Sime Darby, Singapore) suggested using soya oil instead, as it costs less than half the price of canola. But Prof Henry said soya does not have the same heart-healthy benefits as canola, which contains omega-3, omega-6 and alpha-linolenic acid...."

Background on France "palm oil free" and tax proposal, from Khor Reports' Palm Oil e-newsletter Mar/Apr 2013:
Some are unconvinced by sustainable palm oil and have questions on health impacts. In 2012, palm oil faced a strong negative campaign in France. The three‐prong anti‐palm oil campaign uses classic tactics. We can call it the “shun it, tax it, ban it” combination.

Shun it, tax it … “Palm oil free” products were being launched and gaining traction in the EU markets, especially in France where the “Nutella Wars” were playing out in the latter part of last year. The chocolate hazelnut spread, made by the Ferrero Group, was facing a challenge by a similar new product made by the Casino Group, which was marketed prominently as “sans huile de palme”. The Casino Group has been aggressive in switching its food products to other vegetable oils. It reports: “In 2011, the Casino brand had 312 items without palm oil, or 62% of its food offer. The removal of palm oil is continuing and should reach 72% by 2012. In the case of non‐food products… the Group has been using the RSPO supply line since March 2011.” Casino claims that its brands have a 50% market share in France. Green campaigners also encouraged the Mayor of Paris to ban palm oil from use in schools and in government contracts. This should have a domino‐effect, to push others to do likewise. At the same time, the French Senate Committee on Social Security proposed an amendment for a tax of EUR 300 per MT on palm oil. On top of the existing tax of EUR 100 per MT in France, the amended tax would amount to EUR 400. This was dubbed the “Nutella tax.” The campaign against palm oil in France was based primarily on claims that palm oil is bad for health and the environment.
The defence. The anti‐palm oil campaign has been unravelling. In June 2012, a case was brought by smallholder farmers from Cote d’Ivoire to the Tribunal de Commerce in Paris against Systeme U’s
advertising campaign against palm oil which said “No to palm oil, yes to low prices. But not if it costs the earth.” In December 2012, the French retail cooperative (comprising about 800 independent hypermarkets and supermarkets) was ordered to end its misleading advertisements. Systeme U was to cease all further dissemination of anti‐palm oil advertisements or be subject to a penalty of EUR 3,000 per infringement. The French Senate's “Nutella tax” amendment was defeated in its own chamber, and in the National Assembly. Representations were made by delegations visiting from Malaysia and Indonesia. Various food manufacturers such as Ferrero and Carrefour also publicly defended palm oil usage. Malaysian smallholders also spoke out.