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The widespread presence of palm oil, which appears in everything from cosmetics, processed foods, cakes, chocolates, spreads, soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products to biofuel, chemical and industrial products to fire retardant and even paper is now widely recognised. It is likely that over 70% of edible processed products and non-edible products in your supermarket aisle contain palm oil or one of its thousands of derivatives.


Crude palm oil is also used in making biodiesel and is branded as ‘green diesel’ despite the detrimental effects of deforestation caused by its production. 

So why do we keep using it?

The simple answer is it is very versatile and cheap to produce (if you don’t take into account external, social and environmental costs).


Its versatility comes down to many properties :

1) a very high melting point 2) very high saturation levels 3) stable at high temperature 4) blends well with other ingredients 5) has emulsifying properties so blends water and oil ingredients together

6) has a natural preservative effect

Some vegetable oils get close to one of the two of these properties but currently none have all of those properties. This is why palm oil and its derivatives have become sought-after workhorse ingredients in countless edible and non-edible products.

Oil palm is the most efficient oil seed crop in the world it is just a pity that the cheapest place to grow it is on land within 10 degrees of the equator which is home to the rainforest. It can be grown in other locations but would require more resources and higher labour costs. It can also be grown on degraded land within the tropical belt but the plantation owners don’t benefit from felling the rainforest trees to fund their plantations if they use degraded land. So they cut down precious ancient rainforest trees, use the land for around 20yrs until the oil palm stops producing and then abandon the plantation and find new rainforest to destroy.

Indonesia and Malaysia produce about 90% of the world’s palm oil. The other 10% is generated by other producer countries including Thailand, Columbia, Nigeria, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Honduras, India, Brazil, Congo, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Senegal, Siera Lione, Angola, Peru, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela & The Philippines.

Palm oil is edible and derived from the fruits of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) which is also turned into thousands of derivative ingredients

The oil palm yields two types of oil: One is extracted from the flesh of the fruit (palm oil),and the other from the seed, or kernel (palm kernel oil). "60% of the palm oil and palm kernel oil consumed globally is in the form of derivatives such as olein and stearin." ( 

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