Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from Palm fruit which grows on the Africa Oil Palm and has become a common ingredient in many consumer products. Today, around 50 percent of the goods we use every day contain palm oil, from processed foods to candles, grooming products and “biofuels”.
The Palm oil industry has drawn considerable controversy due to its hefty contribution towards deforestation in South-East Asia. Palm oil companies have directly caused the destruction of habitats for animals such as the Orang-utan in Borneo, the Sumatran Tiger in Indonesia and the Asian Rhino, all of which are now endangered species.
Not only animals are affected by the development of Palm oil plantations, more often than not land is taken from indigenous people by corporations, the displaced people are then open to exploitation. People who were once able to sustain themselves are forced into relying on big corporations for their survival and have no choice but to work in degrading conditions to earn enough for their family to barely survive. The industry is also linked to child labour in rural communities of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm oil is also a major contributor to heart disease.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allows palm oil to be labelled simply as “vegetable oil” and indeed its presence can be even less visible as many of the more minor components of a product – colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers and humectants – are commonly palm oil derived.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, high in saturated fats, obtained from the fruit of the African Oil Palm tree; a palm native to West Africa. The trees do well in any warm, humid climate. Malaysia and Indonesia account for 85% of global palm oil production, although it is grown commercially in a number of tropical countries. Products refined from crude palm oil are used in many food and non food items. Palm oil is now the most commonly used vegetable oil around the world.
Aside from being high in saturated fats, palm oil is bad for many non-health related reasons.
Palm oil production companies are being blamed for some atrocious human and animal rights abuses. Palm oil has become one of the world’s leading causes of rainforest destruction. Unchecked expansion has pushed palm oil plantations into the heart of some of the world’s most culturally and biologically diverse ecosystems and palm oil is among the biggest threats driving iconic wildlife species like the Sumatran orangutan to the brink of extinction in Indonesia. This large-scale destruction of rainforests and carbon-rich peatland landscapes is releasing globally significant quantities of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, making palm oil a major global driver of human induced climate change.
Not all Palm oil is unsustainable or unethical. The R.S.P.O (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) was established in 2004 with the intention of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders.
Unfortunately, because standards The R.S.P.O use to determine whether a company is ‘certified sustainable’ seems to be flawed, food manufacturers have no way to differentiate between ethical palm oil from the kind that is produced by companies who destroy rainforests, displace animals and exploit children.
Companies that supply the manufacturers combine all palm oil, whether from ethical sources or not, so despite all good intentions from manufacturers who want to use ethical Palm oil, they can’t.
The RSPO is a fantastic concept that is sorely needed, but at the time of writing this they’ve failed to live up to their potential. They continue to certify companies that are participating in deforestation, and they have a very poor track record when it comes to enforcing standards and dispute resolution between companies and communities.
Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to avoid unsustainable Palm Oil at this stage. The industry is not yet properly regulated and certification does not guarantee a product is 100 percent free from unsustainable or unethically sourced oil. With that being said, it is still better to try to obtain certified palm oil because if a company has gone out of their way to purchase the “sustainable and ethical” product it shows they are trying to care. It also sends a message to companies that we do want a more ethical product.
Palm oil is so predominant in not only our food, but in our everyday household items that it is extremely hard to avoid and wading through page after page of information is just not possible for everyone. Shop Ethical have an easy to use app to help you see whether a product you pick up from the supermarket shelves contains unsustainable palm oil. You can find it * android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.outware.shopethical&hl=en iphone: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/shop-ethical!/id502190240?mt=8 *
These ingredients are definitely palm oil or derived from palm oil: Palm oil kernel, Palm kernel or Palm fruit oil Anything containing the words “Palmitate” or “Palmate”, such as Cetyl Palmitate and Octyl Palmitate Elaeis guineensis Sodium Kernelate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Hexadecanoic or Palmitic Acid, Palmityl Alchohol, Palmolein, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl oxostearamide, Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Kernelat, Sodium & Palm Kernelate.
The app is free to download and available to anyone concerned about the impact of unregulated palm oil supply used in products. It will make it easier for people to choose which products to purchase at the supermarket with the app telling them immediately whether the product contains palm oil and if so, if it has been sourced ethically.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE NOW! DOWNLOAD THE APP TODAY TO START SCANNING!