Paul Newman's Controversial Oreo Knock-offs
The Times has an interesting story today in its Dining & Wine section about those Oreo clones I've been seeing in the "health" food aisle of the supermarket. (I've been tempted, but never bought them, cause I know I'll eat an entire bag in two days... Mmm, Oreo-clones...) They're manufactured by Newman's Own, and are called Newman-Os. (Are they made from real Paul Newmans?)
Real Oreos, of course, are unbelievably bad for you. In addition to just the levels of fat and sugar (so good!), the fat that they use to make that creamy filling is hydrogenated vegetable oil. Basically, shortening, roughly as healthy as a slab of sweetened lard between two chocolate crackers. Instant heart-attack. There's been a widespread movement in recent years to get rid of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and the saturated trans fats they're chock full of, using liquid oils (soy, canola) when possible, and other solid oils when necessary. This is where Newman-Os come in. They've replaced the hydrogenated oil with palm oil, a partially saturated oil that is solid at room temperature, and can thus be used to make delicious creamy lard-like fillings. Healthier than shortening, but not exactly olive oil when it comes to your health.
The new controversy, according to the Times, has to do with the way palm oil is harvested. In Southeast Asia, forests that are habitat for orangutans are being replaced with palm plantations, as exports of palm oil to the US food industry are growing rapidly for products like Newman-Os. Now, Newman's Own uses environmentally sound palm oil from South America, and so does not directly contribute to starving photogenic orangutans. However, like crude oil, palm oil is fungible, and increasing demand for South American palm oil just means that the majority of orangutan-hating food manufacturers will purchase from Southeast Asia instead. Eating Newman's Own Oreo-clones doesn't solve the problem.
So, what to do? My solution: homemade Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies, made with butter.