Anastasia's Pantry is a brand that is very firm on it's ethical values which includes our views on palm oil. Find out why environmentally conscious companies avoid this ingredient and why you should too.
1. What is palm oil?
Let's start with the fact that it’s an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees for which the scientific name is Elaeis guineensis. Oil palm trees are native to Africa but were brought to South-East Asia just over 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Now, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of global supply but there are 42 other countries that also produce palm oil.
2. Where can we find it?
Palm oil is in nearly everything – it’s in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, everything from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick. It’s also used in animal feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world (not in the UK though!).
3. Why is it so widespread?
Palm oil is an extremely versatile oil that has many different properties and functions which makes it so useful and so widely used. It is semi-solid at room temperature so can keep spreads spreadable; it is resistant to oxidation and so can give products a longer shelf-life; it’s stable at high temperatures and so helps to give fried products a crispy and crunchy texture; it’s also odourless and colourless so doesn’t alter the look or smell of food products. In Asian and African countries, palm oil is used widely as a cooking oil, just like we might use sunflower or olive oil here.
4. So what is the problem with palm oil?
Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s
most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour. These are serious issues that the whole palm oil sector needs to step up to address because it doesn’t have to be this way.
5. What can we do?
We can look out for RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) certified products or better yet avoid buying it all together! It might take a few extra minutes and squints at the label but in the long run it will reduce the demand for it. Major companies are already hearing our cry for palm-oil free products so the more that jump on this bandwagon the better! If you want to spread awareness then share this blog with someone.