May/Jun 2017

Readers' Letters


from Ethical Consumer Issue 166, May/June 2017


Cover of March/April issuePalm oil in margarine
I have been trying to buy sunflower margarine without palm oil without any success. Finally, I wrote to two of my suppliers and I have had a very interesting and informative reply from Biona as follows:

“In regards to your query all of our vegan margarines contain palm oil. This is because vegetable, olive and nut oils are liquid at room temperature and in order to solidify them for use in certain products such as margarines and spreads, they must first be hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oils are not permitted in organic products and are linked to negative effects on health such as high cholesterol. However, palm oil and coconut oil are naturally solid at room temperature and are currently the only non-hydrogenated vegetarian alternatives at the moment.

Therefore, unfortunately you will be unable to find a palm oil-free organic margarine on the market. Please be assured that all of our palm oil comes from sustainable sources and our suppliers are registered with RSPO (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

The RSPO has been working since 2004 to transform the palm oil industry in collaboration with the global supply chain. It is a not-for-profit organisation that works with stakeholders from all sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil. This has included developing a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm-oil producing regions. The palm oil used in our Biona Organic Margarines is sourced from Brazil and Columbia, and therefore does not affect the habitat of Orangutans in Borneo, which we are aware is one of the concerns surrounding the use of palm oil”.

Since then I have seen products using Sustainable Palm Oil.

Juliet Blackburn, by email

Top toothpaste
You missed an excellent brand in EC165. Sarakan is a small company in Gloucestershire producing toothpaste and mouthwash containing only natural ingredients. My Best Buy every time.

Julie Collier, by email


We were surprised that you made no mention of Splosh products in your otherwise excellent article on laundry detergents in EC165. It sells concentrated products, thus reducing water use and, more importantly to us, you only ever need one bottle for each product as they are refillable. Many thanks for an excellent magazine that has informed many of our purchasing choices for the past 15 years.

Will & Sally Sutcliffe


Shampoo substitute ahoy!
Thanks for covering alternatives to shampoo in the March/April issue (EC165). A few weeks ago, I discovered an answer to healthy hair-washing and I’d like to share it with you. Sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, leaves hair clean and is gentle on the scalp. I just wet my hair, take a pinch of baking soda, rub it in, then rinse. I was convinced after the very first wash. However, I now need an alternative use for all the shampoo in the bathroom...

Alex Bailey, by email


Sweet smell of home chemistry
I’ve been struggling for a while now to find a deodorant that is ethical, natural and, importantly, one that actually works. I’ve tried Neal’s Yard sprays (they smelt great in the bottle, but less good on my skin), Faith in Nature roll-ons (didn’t work), natural rocks (they usually crumbled away, I may as well have not used anything) and Lush powders and solid deodorants (slightly better smelling but often made my skin itch). So, I decided to make my own, following your Toiletries product report (EC 165). I googled a very simple recipe: 3:1 parts arrowroot:baking powder, bound together with some melted coconut oil and a few drops of essential oils. Mix together to a paste and let it set. It’s cheap, easy to apply and it works. Might have a go at toothpaste next ...

Adele Armistead, by email


Is Auntie ethical?
In an otherwise interesting article (Phasing out the forprofit corporation EC165), I was disappointed that Rob Harrison included the BBC as an example of one of the “many thousands of high performing not-for-profit corporate forms we could choose from”.

The BBC is not an example I would choose. The BBC Trust is full of ‘the great and good’ from for-profit corporations such as Ron Fairhead of HSBC and Sir Roger Carr of Centrica, appointed by the government. There are no union or grass-roots charities represented here. The BBC represents a form of cultural hegemony where it covers the concerns of elites such as banks, the finance sector and the military industrial complex in a positive light and excludes alternatives as if the concerns ofthose former are all that should concern us and that in fact there are no alternatives. This has been shown many times by the Glasgow media group in such books as ‘More Bad News from Israel’ and Dr John Robertson’s coverage of bias during the Scottish independence referendum.

During the 2008 crash, the BBC included many more interviews with representatives of business than, say, charity or the unions. Tom Mills book ‘The BBC: Myth of a Public Service’ has more details of this. During the illegal Iraq invasion, the BBC acted as a foghorn of war for the government, much more so than the other more commercial channels in this country. Many BBC presenters come from elite universities and public school backgrounds, giving them a particular outlook. See my own blog post at

This does not include those such as Evan Davis, involved in economic modelling of the poll tax back in the eighties, or Andrew Neil, himself from a right-wing corporate news background. I encourage your readers to check out the Medialens website at They have many excellent alerts detailing BBC bias. From its coverage of strikes to its coverage of the NHS cuts and privatisation, the BBC covers those in a pro-corporate way. Ethical Consumer could do worse than cast an eye over the BBC and checking for themselves how biased it is, how low it would come in any ethical survey and that it is, in its current form, not something to be emulated.

Gerald Payne, by email


Better World Books
Please stop recommending Better World Books. I just used them as an Amazon alternative, ordering 20 books. I had the miserable experience of many others:

Half the books never arrived, and I can only get robotic responses from BWB about the missing books. No telephone number, no recourse. Money apparently simply lost. Most likely the books have been returned to BWW to sell again, or else never actually sent.

They have another trick they pulled on me last year – I didn’t realise it was a trick until I read others having the same experience – ‘selling’ me a book, only to tell me later that it was unavailable after all. Twice. THEN the book appears elsewhere (e.g. eBay) for ten times the price they ‘sold’ it to me. I ordered that same book through AbeBooks – but it turned out Abe was using BWW as their bookseller. Funnily enough, a completely different book arrived, even though the title on the slip was the correct one. Again, BWB says they can do nothing. Is this incompetence or fraud I wonder? At any rate, it seems to be a business model, nota one-off accident.

As such, please do consider dropping them from your list of recommended Amazon alternatives, or at least explicitly factoring into your calculations the experiences many of us have been having with BWB.

Amber Carpenter, by email

Ed: Sorry to hear of your story. We’ve had good experiences of Hive’s new web platform as a place to find second-hand books recently.



Eggs & male chicks
In trying to become more aware of where our animal produce is sourced, it seems that the routine gassing or maceration of newborn male chicks is still standard practice in the egg industry, even amongst free-range suppliers such as the Happy Egg Company. Are there any known suppliers of eggs, even on a small scale, who don’t participate or contribute indirectly to this practice? Or are vegan ‘egg substitutes’ the only option?

Samcxjo, from our Forums