Oreos are famously known as Milk’s Favorite Cookie. They used to be my favorite cookie, but you would never catch me eating an Oreo cookie now. Oreos have made their way onto multiple accidentally vegan food lists, but when Nabisco was asked if Oreos are vegan, they responded by saying, “No, Oreos have milk as a cross contact and therefore are not suitable for vegans.” Peta has the following statement on their website:
Some packaged foods have a long list of ingredients. The farther an ingredient is down the list, the less of that ingredient is in the food. People who have made the compassionate decision to stop eating animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products may wonder if they need to read every ingredient to check for tiny amounts of obscure animal products. Our general advice is not to worry too much about doing this. The goal of sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet is to help animals and reduce suffering; this is done by choosing a bean burrito or a veggie burger over chicken flesh, or choosing tofu scramble over eggs, not by refusing to eat an otherwise vegan food because it has 0.001 grams of monoglycerides that may possibly be animal-derived.
I agree with PETA on this stance, and don’t mind eating products that have a label stating “may contain trace amounts of milk” or “was produced in a factory where milk products are also used”. I take those labelings as a way of the company protecting themselves if someone with a milk allergy decides to eat their product. I do not avoid these products, so that is not why I won’t eat an Oreo cookie.
There are three primary reasons why a person becomes a vegan: for their health, for the environment, and for the animals. I know someone out there probably has a different reason than the ones previously mentioned, but these are the most common reasons that I hear. Personally, I resonate with all three of these reasons, and each of these reasons have helped me on my path towards veganism in a different way.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Oreos For Your Health
This reason is probably the most obvious. Just take a look at this ingredient list:
Oreos contain quite a few ingredients that are genetically engineered. The top offender being high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup, HFCS, is common ingredient found in most processed foods today. HFCS is made by milling corn into cornstarch, and then processing the cornstarch to get glucose syrup. It is an artificial sweetener that has fast replaced natural sugar because it blends well with all kinds of foods, is just as sweet as regular sugar, does not spoil fast and is less costly than other sweeteners because of the government subsidies for corn. Regular consumption of HFCS causes weight gain because it is not metabolized by the body like regular sugar. Fructose converts to fat in the body more quickly than regular sugar and inhibits the production of leptin, the satiety-inducing hormone. The average American consumes about 60 pounds of HFCS per person per year. And we wonder why obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven fold? I’m not saying that this is only due to HFCS, but it is definitely a huge cause in the downturn of health. If you are someone who cares about their health like I do, then you probably don’t want to put such a destructive ingredient into your body.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Oreos For The Environment
The reason that Oreos have a negative impact on the environment is because they contain palm oil. Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived form the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Today, palm oil is grown through Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, with 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia; but most of the time not using sustainable measures. Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation value have been cleared to make room for vast palm oil plantations. This causes negative impacts such as soil erosion, air pollution, soil and water pollution, and climate change. Up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to make room for palm plantations, and this number is expected to grown.
It is estimated that 50% of packaged items in the grocery store now contain palm oil. Palm oil is such a hot commodity because it is not only technically useful, but also economically beneficial. Palm oil has a high melting point. Because it is semi-solid at room temperature, it has a variety of uses. Animal fats also have this quality, but they are significantly more expensive to produce. Palm oil is so cheap to produce because both the fleshy outer part and the inner stone provide usable oil.
If you are someone that went vegan because of environmental reasons then you probably want to avoid palm oil at all costs. Behind animal agriculture, palm oil is one of the most environmentally destructive products on this planet.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Oreos For The Animals
This reason is least obvious out of all three. There isn’t any animal products directly in Oreos, so how are Oreos harming the animals? The answer comes down to a familiar ingredient: palm oil.
One hundred years ago, there were an estimated 230,000 orangutans that roamed the earth. Today, fewer than 50,000 are left in the wild. These orangutans are living exclusively on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. These island happen to be home the rapidly growing and controversial palm oil industry.
Over the past 20 years, tens of thousands of wild orangutans have been killed, maimed or orphaned as a direct result of the palm oil industry. In 2006 alone, an estimated 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death after wandering onto palm oil plantations. Thousands more have died due to widespread deforestation caused by the cultivation of palm oil.
Palm oil has also had a negative impact on the Sumatran tiger population. It is estimated that the sumatran tiger will be extinct in less than three years if nothing is done to protect their habitat.
What You Can Do To Help
No matter which one of these reasons is the main reason why you decided to go vegan, avoiding Oreos will benefit your health, the environment, and the animals. The best way to vote for what you want in this world is with your dollar. You can preach health, environmentally sustainability, and animals rights all day long, but if you continue to purchase products that go against what you believe, than you are still supporting it. If you cannot possibly live without that creme filled chocolate cookie, then try this organic version instead (I have not tried these before).