What is palm oil and how can we avoid it when we shop?
Palm oil comes from the Palm Fruit (Elaeis Guineensis plant if you want to get really fancy), which originated in West Africa and grows in hot, wet climates. It’s the most widely produced vegetable oil on the planet, with 90% of palm oil grown in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm oil itself is not the problem; it’s the way it is harvested in an excessive and unsustainable way, that causes so much social and environmental devastation.
Although Palm oil is said to be found in 50% of supermarket products, we’re still unfamiliar with seeing the term ‘palm oil’ on the ingredients list. Surely that’s illegal?
By law, in Australia and New Zealand, only three vegetable oils need to be labeled in the ingredients list due to food allergies: peanut oil, sesame oil, and soybean oil.
If you’re allergic to supporting the destruction of rainforests and death of orangutans, you’re out of luck.
If you’re less inclined to memorise 136 alternative names of palm oil while you’re shopping (we don’t blame you!), start by learning these four root words:
Although these root words don’t 100% conclude that palm oil is present, they are worth avoiding if you can, referring back to the greater list above for further confirmation, or contacting the company to double check.
Just when you thought you were past reading our big lists… palm oil is generally found in these products:
Food: Most commonly listed as vegetable oil or vegetable fat.
Cosmetics: Most commonly listed as Elaeis guineensis oil.
Shampoo & conditioner
Unfortunately, these lists don’t cover it all. Everyday household products and food have become hugely reliant on palm oil; you can never be safe unless you check the ingredients list properly, or contact the company directly.
On top of hiding palm oil in hundreds of different names, companies try their best to persuade us their products are palm oil free, by using the following loaded statements:
Palm oil derivatives (this still means palm oil!)
Minimal palm oil ingredients… even if it’s minimal, it’s still there
Member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO): this can mean they either use sustainable palm oil or have only committed to using it in the near future. There is constant debate around the legitimacy of the RSPO label, and many believe it’s strong greenwashing we shouldn’t be fooled by.
With all this in mind, you may be overwhelmed by the facts, and devastated at how your most recently bought products may have contributed to a worldwide crisis. It’s not worth crying over spilled milk, or in this case, spilled palm oil. Instead, use this information to empower you in your shopping, and check out our list of online stores to purchase palm oil free products you can trust.
Ethical living/fashion advocate, eco wedding planner, and brand rep. Kate strives to promote ethical living in every way under the sun, and won’t stop at anything to make sure the planet and it’s people are being looked after the way that they should be.