Could your vegetarian foods be backing deforestation?

You already know that many food products contain palm oil. And the logging of the trees that produce this kind of oil is destroying the homes of great apes such as the orangutan, the magnificent Sumatran tiger, the majestic Asian rhinoceros and more. But did you know that vegetarian and vegan food products can contain palm oil, too? Scarily, even if you’re choosing more vegetarian/vegan foods, manufactured foods could be destroying your ethics because of the palm oil they contain – 80% of which is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.

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Why manufacturers pick palm oil

From edibles to personal hygiene products, palm oil is used extensively by manufactures – it’s found in around half of all products in your local supermarket.

 

Manufacturers use palm oil for lots of reasons. Including that:

  • It helps products retain their just-produced properties even after heating and cooking
  • It’s stable for long periods
  • It helps to extend the shelf life of foods
  • It has a neutral taste and a creamy texture
  • It’s quite cheap so much sought-after by manufacturers wanting to maximise profit.

How you can spot palm oil

In Australia, manufacturers only have to label three vegetable oils on food labels –  peanut, sesame oil and soy bean oil.  This is because these are common allergens – consuming these can obviously be dangerous for people who are allergic to these foods. A manufactured food does not have to state that it contains palm oil. But you can find it if you can spot the signs.

Look for saturated fat in vegetable oil

Take vegetable oil, for example. Vegetable oils don’t contain saturated fat – except for two of them. So, if a label that says a food product contains vegetable oil and then lists the concentration of saturated fat in that oil, then the oil may be derived from either coconut oil or palm oil.

If palm oil is used in cosmetics, it does need to be stated per se. But look for the term Elaeis guineensis which is the name for palm oil as stated by the cosmetics governing body, the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients.

Palm oil and your health

As well as avoiding palm oil as much as you can for the sake of wildlife and habitat, there’s another reason to reduce your intake of palm oil – for the sake of your health. The World Health Organization says that the fatty acid palmitic acid in palm oil raises your risk of cardiovascular disease. WHO recommends that you avoid consuming palm and coconut oil (the only two vegetable oils that contain saturated fat).

 

Protecting against deforestation 

Want to protect against deforestation, global warming and destruction of homes for the remaining wild animals? Here’s what you can do:

  1. Avoid products that contain palm oil as much as you can. Download a palm oil free shopping guide here:
  2. Go to Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia for more alternatives to palm oil here
  3. Look for palm oil from Identity Preserved Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). CSPO is oil certified sustainable and fully traceable to a single source. Or choose segregated CSPO which is oil that’s 100% certified sustainable from mixed sources. Palm oil that comes from the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is vetted by an organisation that encourages members to buy palm oil from sustainable sources. The RSPO certifies a range of palm oil supply options which vary in their degree of sustainability and environmental impact.

Every choice you make makes a difference – not just to you but to the lives of others.