Palm oil is an extremely popular vegetable oil amongst manufacturers. It is used in over 50% of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, cosmetics, body products and cleaning agents. But in many countries, there is no law on the mandatory labelling of palm oil. Consequently, companies will usually hide palm oil under the name of 'vegetable oil', or over 170 other names! (See the list of the most common 30 names below).
One argument is that we need palm oil in today's society, and that palm oil is a key ingredient in many foods and body products. But what about 30 years ago? Back then, palm oil wasn't use is nearly as many products as today (as seen in the graphs found on the 'Images' page), in fact, it was almost non-existant in much of the Western-world. So why does there need to be such a high demand for it in the modern world? We don't need palm oil. There a many alternatives to palm oil, but unfortunately none as cheap and efficient, which is why companies are reluctant to switch.
Another alternative option for companies is 'sustainable palm oil'. The only issue with sustainable palm oil is that currently, this 'eco-friendly' vegetable oil is sourced through RSPO, an organisation which is considered unreliable and untrustworthy by many (read the segment below for more information).
However; even if sustainable palm oil was proven to actually be 'sustainable', why wouldn't all companies use it? Consider two chocolate bars. They both contain palm oil. One uses palm oil sourced from a sustainable plantation, the other uses palm oil from plantations associated with animal genocide and catastrophic deforestation. Which one would you buy? The answer may be obvious to you, but for the global corporate giants of this world, it's a different story.
Because palm oil isn't labelled in many countries, consumers are blinded to the fact that many of the products they are buying contribute to this unprecedented disaster. One of the lists below consists of well-known products that contain crude palm oil as well as a list of products that contain 'sustainable' palm oil. That way you can have the choice whether to buy them or not.
Orangutan numbers are plummeting at a dangerously fast rate, all for our sugary, prepackaged snack foods and fragrant, chemical-filled soaps and shampoos.
We have a choice, orangutans do not.
Click here to learn more about palm oil
RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
RSPO, founded in 2004, is an organisation made to promote the sustainable agriculture of the palm oil crop.
It is a good start for companies to become a member of RSPO and commit to sourcing 'Sustainable Palm Oil', however; the effectiveness of RSPO is yet to be proven.
There has been large debate over whether RSPO is a well run, effective organisation or as some describe; 'a green wash'. Many consumers are not happy with RSPO's low standards and lack of regulations. Consumers state that the RSPO is simply a name that companies can hide behind and that the palm oil cannot be proven to be sustainable.
For now, it's up to you as a consumer to choose whether you trust the RSPO and their standards on sustainable palm oil.
To see the full list of companies that are members of RSPO, click here.
7 ways to detect & avoid palm oil
If you live in countries such as Australia, New Zealand or the UK, then you will understand how frustrating it is trying to avoid palm oil when shopping, because there are no laws on the mandatory labelling of palm oil. This means companies usually don't label palm oil on their products.
The list below consists of a number of different ways in which you can detect and avoid palm oil when shopping:
- The most common name palm oil is hidden under is 'vegetable oil'. Almost all Asian products or products made in Asia that have 'vegetable oil' written on the label means that it is palm oil.
- Most pre-packaged snack foods made by well known, large corporate-giants (Nestle, Unilever etc) contain palm oil.
- If a product's saturated fat content is over 40% of it's total fat content, it will almost always have palm oil in it.
- Ingredients with the word 'palm' in them are palm oil or are derived from the oil palm fruit (as shown in the ingredient list below).
- Nearly all home-brand/no-name pasties and confectionery will contain palm oil (Coles/Safeway donuts, muffins, cakes, chocolate, confectionery etc).
- If you are not sure whether a product contains palm oil, either type the product name into google along with 'palm oil' and see the search results, or call the company and ask if they use palm oil.
- To avoid palm oil, look out for products that contain alternative vegetable oils, such as 100% sunflower oil, corn oil or canola oil. However, please note that Soybean oil is often associated with the destruction of rainforest in Brazil.
Just because a product says it is "Organic" or "Cruelty-Free" does not mean it doesn't contain palm oil. In fact, most natural/organic products do contain palm oil - because palm oil is a very much a natural ingredient. It's the way it is produced that is far from natural, which is something many companies fail to realise.
EXAMPLES OF HOW TO DETECT PALM OIL ON A LABEL:
Trident - Cheese Rice Crackers
Palm oil ingredient(s): Palm Oil
Corinthians - Chocolate Cream Wafers
Palm oil ingredient(s): Palm oil, Vegetable Oil (palm)
Coles Smart Buy - Light Fruit CakePalm oil ingredient(s): Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fats and Oils (palm)
Purity - Rose Pure Vegetable Oil SoapPalm oil ingredient(s): Sodium Palmitate, Sodium Kernelate
Swami Sarasvati - Apricot E Moisturiser
Palm oil ingredient(s): Palmitate, Stearic Acid, Clyceryl Stearate-Coco palm, Sodium Stearate, Retinyl Palmitate
Organic Care/Nature's Organics - Normal Balance Conditioner
Palm oil ingredient(s): Palm Kernel
Brut Endurance - Tough Growth Shave Gel
Palm oil ingredient(s): Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid
Below are three lists:
TOP LEFT: Companies and their products that use palm oil sourced from land that once-was orangutan rainforest habitat.
BOTTOM LEFT: Companies and their brands that use RSPO 'sustainable' palm oil.
TOP RIGHT: Companies and their products that are palm oil free.
It is up to you as a consumer to choose whether to continue buying these products, whether they are crude, or whether you trust RSPO sustainable palm oil to be farmed in a sustainable manner.