Why you want to avoid palm oil

Palm oil is controversial. But what is it and why more and more people want to avoid palm oil? Find out how it affects your health and the environment.
6 January 2021

Why avoid palm oil? What is it?

First a bit of theory. Palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruits of the oil palm. It is one of the cheapest saturated fats and you don’t need much to get the desired result. The demand for palm oil is high worldwide and is still increasing.

In the regular supermarket you will find palm oil (palm fat) in more than 60% of the processed products. From cookies, ice cream and chocolate to instant noodles and ready meals. It is therefore possible that, without realizing it, you regularly have a product containing palm oil in your shopping basket.

Is palm oil unhealthy?

Palm oil is a controversial product. Sometimes it seems like this discussion is mainly about the health disadvantages of the product. Many people avoid palm oil for the sake of their health. That’s fine. After all, it is a saturated fat, which is simply more difficult for your body to digest.

Palm oil is neither sustainable nor environmentally friendly

However, the real problem is much bigger and wider. Palm oil production accounts for multiple climate and ethical issues in the region (especially Malaysia and Indonesia). To create plantations, entire forests and peat soils are burned. Rainforests are disappearing, while we need them so badly for CO2. Certain animal species, such as the orangutan, are becoming extinct. Forest fires are also more common, which causes additional environmental pollution. But that’s not all. There are also frequent human rights violations within the industry. Heavy working conditions, underpayment or even child labor are common. And while there are more and more initiatives around the world to counter these practices, this remains a comparatively significant problem in the palm oil industry.

Is there good palm oil?

No palm oil is of course the safest solution, but if you do have a product containing palm oil in your hands, inquire whether it is RSPO certified. RSPO (Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil) is committed to the most environmentally friendly and sustainable production of palm oil.