Palm Oil: What Is It?



2 min read



You’ve probably heard the term palm oil thrown about in environmental debates in recent years. It’s been a massive topic in the media and on social media but do you actually know what it is?

What Is Palm Oil?

As the name would suggest, it is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of palm trees. Oil palm trees originate from Africa but were brought over to South-East Asia around 100 years ago. Today, Malaysia and Indonesia supply around 85% of the world’s palm oil.

Why Is It In My Food?

The short answer is that it is incredibly versatile and offers properties that other vegetable oils don’t.

Like What?
  • It is resistant to oxidation which gives products containing the oil a longer shelf life
  • It is a ‘semi-solid’ at room temperature which makes it spreadable
  • It’s odourless and colourless, so it does not alter the appearance or smell of food
  • It’s stable at high temperatures so keeps fried products crunchy
  • It is a very efficient crop, large quantities can be produced in a small area all year round

What Products Contain Palm Oil?

Well, about 50% of packaged products. From spreads to crisps, it is found in most processed packaged food. It even gets a look in on the toiletries aisle in products like deodorant and toothpaste.

Why Is It Bad?

It is a big cause of deforestation. This in turn drives the destruction of endangered species’ habitats, for example, the orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino. Not to mention deforestation’s contribution to climate change and global warming.

How Can I Avoid Palm Oil?

Yes. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has a production standard that sets the best practices for sourcing and producing the oil. You can look for products that are certified by the RSPO for their palm oil use and sourcing.

RSPO Certification For Palm Oil Products

How Can FoodLama Help?

You can avoid environmentally harmful products by downloading FoodLama! FoodLama can also help you try new products that are eco-friendly and make swaps to help the environment.

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