America’s Halloween Candy May be Killing Orangutans

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New Campaign Exposes Candy Makers' Role in Widespread Rainforest Destruction, Species Extinction
Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Laurel Sutherlin, 415.246.0161

For candy makers like Mars, Hershey and Nestle, the days leading up to Halloween comprise the biggest week of sales all year. A major new campaign by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is bringing national attention to the extreme hidden consequences caused by the production of palm oil, a key ingredient in many of America’s most popular Halloween candies. The production of Conflict Palm Oil, now found in roughly half the packaged goods in grocery stores, is one of the largest causes of tropical deforestation and orangutan extinction and is responsible for widespread child labor and human rights violations.

Rainforest Action Network’s campaign is focused on raising public awareness in order to pressure America’s top candy and snack food companies, The Snack Food 20, as the group has dubbed them, to take responsibility for the impacts caused by the palm oil they purchase. Rainforest Action Network is calling on the Snack Food 20 to implement truly responsible palm oil policies that go above and beyond the unreliable track record of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the controversial certification body accused of ‘greenwashing’ Conflict Palm Oil.

“In the 21st Century customers don’t want to buy candy and cookies that are responsible for pushing the world’s last wild orangutans to extinction and for horrifying child labor violations. That’s why Rainforest Action Network is putting these top 20 snack food companies using ‘Conflict Palm Oil’ on notice that it’s time to develop responsible policies and create products that reflect the values of their customers and the needs of our planet,” said Lindsey Allen, the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. 

Rainforest Action Network recently released a two minute video of a sign language conversation between an orphaned orangutan and a little girl that has gone viral on the internet and helped to generate tens of thousands letters and phone calls from American shoppers to Snack Food 20 companies protesting their use of Conflict Palm Oil in the past two weeks.

The launch of the Last Stand of the Orangutan campaign was accompanied by the release of a new report, entitled Conflict Palm Oil: How US Snack Food Brands are Contributing to Orangutan Extinction, Climate Change and Human Rights Violations, which details and exposes the increasingly severe environmental and human rights problems caused by palm oil production.

The report finds that none of the Snack Food 20 companies currently can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain palm oil connected to rainforest destruction, carbon pollution and human rights abuses. It also concludes the Snack Food 20 have the market influence to engage their supply chains and make demands of major palm oil traders like Cargill with the leverage to transform the destructive way palm oil producers currently grow Conflict Palm Oil.

Palm oil is one of the world’s leading causes of rainforest destruction and its use in the United States has grown nearly 500 percent in the past decade. Annual carbon emissions related to deforestation in Indonesia alone – most of which stem from palm oil plantation expansion - are greater than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the United States combined.

The US Department of Labor lists palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia as commodities associated with child labor and modern day slavery. A July article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported the results of a nine-month investigation by the Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism that documented widespread cases of child labor on palm oil plantations associated with the supply chains of the Snack Food 20.

The “Snack Food 20” group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.


Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: