Palm oil is used by manufacturers in the production of food, body products, cleaning agents, soap, and makeup. Most pre-packaged snack foods made by large corporate-giants such as Nestle contain palm oil.
But Rolf Skar, a senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace, among others, claims palm oil is one of the leading causes of global warming and deforestation.
Orangutans along with many other native species of Borneo and Sumatra are on the verge of extinction because of large-scale deforestation.
“The fastest and the worst deforestation rate in the history of humankind is taking place in the tropical forests of Indonesia,” Skar says.
“That record-breaking rain forest destruction is being fueled by the clearing of land to make palm oil.”
Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. And although oil palms are originally from Western Africa, today almost all palm oil is produced in, and exported from, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“People don’t realize that when you look at the global greenhouse gas emitters, there’s China and the U.S. at the top, but the third is Indonesia,” Skar says, and adds that the clearing and burning of forests for more and more palm oil facilities releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases.
“If you care about global warming then you’ve got to care about what’s happening in Indonesia right now.”
A 2011 analysis of 23 countries showed that for each kilogram of palm oil added to the diet annually there was an increase in ischemic heart disease deaths.
“Cardiovascular diseases represent an increasing share of the global disease burden. There is concern that increased consumption of palm oil could exacerbate mortality from ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke, particularly in developing countries where it represents a major nutritional source of saturated fat.”
For those interested, the list below consists of a number of different ways in which you can detect and avoid palm oil when shopping, courtesy of saynotopalmoil.com.
1) 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’ on the label instead of palm oil.
2) Most pre-packaged snack foods made by well known, large corporate-giants contain palm oil.
3) 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.
4) Ingredients with the word “palm” contain palm oil or are derived from the oil palm fruit.
5) Nearly all home-brand/no-name pasties and confectionery will contain palm oil (Coles/Safeway donuts, muffins, cakes, chocolate, confectionery etc).
6) If you are not sure whether a product contains palm oil, either type the product name into Google along with “palm oil” and view the search results, or call the company and ask if they use palm oil.
7) 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 realize.