Palm Oil is one of the most extensively used vegetable oils in the world. It is cheap and highly versatile and used for a huge range of purposes.
Palm oil is often in the news due to devastating impacts the production can have on virgin forests and wildlife in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere. However, it is possible to grow palm oil sustainably, without clearing new forests.
When palm oil is used in food, it is required in the UK to be listed on the ingredients, and may appear under a range of names such as palm oil, palm, palm fruit oil, and as it is used so extensively, it’s worth checking on the label, or scanning the barcode on the Giki app in the UK to check if it is sustainably sourced.
Here are some of the aisles which use palm oil most frequently:
Doughnuts and biscuits
Palm oil is very common in doughnuts. It is also used extensively in other ready made cakes in particular, cheesecakes, pies and tarts.
When it comes to biscuits, both sweet and savoury use a lot of palm oil. From digestives and cheese biscuits, through to Jaffa cakes, cookies, cereal bars and savoury crackers, palm oil has a role in enhancing texture.
Bread is also a heavy user of palm oil, although many of the big brands, such as Allinson’s, Hovis and Warburtons, use sustainable palm oil.
Many of the nation’s favourite chocolate bars use palm oil and it is found in well over 50% of most chocolate products – in multipack bars, it’s in 79%. It is used to make the chocolate silky and to ensure it doesn’t melt, as palm oil is semi solid at room temperature. It’s also used in sweets and other confectionary items.
Margarine and stock cubes
Over 80% of margarines use palm oil. It is a substitute for animal fat used in butter. It is not always easy to find sustainable palm oil options, but Biona and Suma both do one.
Not the most expected area to find palm oil, but it is found in many types of stock cube and in gravy mixes too.
Pastries, Pies and Deli
Pastries, pies and deli items are frequent users of palm oil. Deli pies often use conventional palm oil, rather than sustainably sourced palm oil, however interestingly, large frozen meat pies have a higher proportion using sustainable palm oil.
The good news is, that as most of us buy the same products fairly regularly, once we’ve checked them and swapped anything we don’t like the look of anymore, you only need to check when buying something new. You can give your cupboards a palm oil audit using Giki in the UK, to check that your favourite products aren’t using conventional palm oil. Luckily, in every supermarket aisle, there is a choice we can make which is either palm free, or uses sustainable palm, so the good news is, when it comes to palm oil, it is possible to eat in confidence that we are not supporting palm oil related deforestation and wildlife destruction.