Palm oil is one of the most common ingredients found in household products, with it estimated to be in at least 50 per cent of the things you buy from the supermarket – from cereal to toothpaste, chocolate, lipstick, shampoo and ice cream. However, it is most often disguised as “vegetable oil” on the label.
On Friday 24 November, 2017 the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation will once again meet to consider recommendations to change food labelling laws that would see palm oil clearly labelled in Australia once and for all.
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) and is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet.
It is grown in tropical climates, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia where about 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced. In order to plant these palm oil plantations, enormous amounts of rainforest that is home to a number of endangered animals including orang-utans, elephants, rhinos and tigers must be cleared.
Palm oil is not the enemy here, the way it's produced is what is the problem. Banning palm oil is not the best solution for the environment! If palm oil was banned, the alternatives such as rapeseed (canola) oil or coconut oil are likely to be far worse for the environment as they are not as productive or efficient as palm oil and therefore would require even more land to be cleared to make way for these plantations.
A number of organisations including World Wildlife Fund and Zoos Victoria strongly believe that the palm oil industry can grow and prosper without destroying the habitats of orang-utans, rhinos, tigers and elephants.
Palm oil is most often referred to as “vegetable oil”. However, it is often also called any of these:
Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol
Never underestimate the power of the consumer! If palm oil is clearly labelled on products then palm oil that has been sustainably sourced, known as Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), will also be easier for consumers to find. This in turn will put pressure on food companies to start using CSPO which will then put pressure on the palm oil suppliers to start growing CSPO.