Why does being palm oil-free matter?

WHAT IS PALM OIL?

There are two methods of extracting palm oil—both of which involves harnessing the power of the mighty oil palm tree and its bulbous fruit. Either squeeze the fleshy fruit and create crude palm oil; or crush the kernel at the centre of the fruit to get palm kernel oil.

Originally found in Africa, oil palms were exported to Southeast Asia more than a century ago as an ornamental tree crop. Fast forward to the modern era and Indonesia and Malaysia are currently the chief global suppliers of palm oil—but by no means the only nation that dabbles in its production. At last count, 42 other countries are known manufacturers of the controversial ingredient, including Colombia, Kenya and Nigeria.

WHERE IS IT USED?

It’s perhaps quicker to say what palm oil isn’t used for. Of all the packaged goods found in supermarkets, it’s estimated that nearly half contain palm oil in some form. Deodorant, hair conditioner, toothpaste—it’s not just limited to toiletries, either. Palm oil is found in a whole host of foodstuffs and edibles, from pizza and packaged bread to instant noodles and ice cream. In other words: it’s everywhere. Palm oil also moonlights as a biofuel in many regions across the world, although not in the UK.

Sadly for those of us fighting against the use of palm oil, its strength and commercial appeal lies in its versatility; quite simply, palm oil is so prevalent as a commodity across the globe because it possesses a vast range of natural characteristics and functions. At room temperature, it exists as a semi-solid—a property which helps keep spreads spreadable. It’s also able to give products a longer shelf-life, because of its immunity to oxidation. Palm oil is also odourless and colourless so it doesn’t affect the smell or visual quality of edible products.

WHAT’S THE ISSUE WITH PALM OIL?

Despite its ability to make spreading margarine a much simpler task, there is, unfortunately, an enormous price to pay. The manufacture of palm oil is known to be a key driving factor in the deforestation of some of the planet’s most biologically diverse rainforests. In turn, the decimation of these natural environments has greatly jeopardized the welfare of already endangered species. The pygmy elephant, the orangutan, and the Sumatran rhino are all under threat of extinction—in no small part to the catastrophic effects of palm oil production. 

The trail of destruction doesn’t end there. By converting carbon-rich peat soils, the manufacturing process is also spewing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing hugely to climate change. Combine that with reports of some serious exploitation of workers and child labour cases in certain regions and it’s clear that the production of palm oil just isn’t worth the appalling cost.

OUR PROMISE

While palm oil remains a prevalent, almost inescapable commodity in many people’s lives, here at Oleo, we are committed to removing all traces of the ingredient from our products. All across the range, you will not find a single item which contains palm oil. This is something we feel very passionately about and we are proud to be a 100% palm oil-free company.

Posted by Oleo Bodycare on May 28th 2020

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