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Palm oil is derived from the flesh of the fruit of the oil palm species E. Guineensis. In its virgin form, the oil is bright orange-red due to the high content of carotene. Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature; a characteristic brought about by its approx. 50 percent saturation level. Palm oil (and its products) has good resistance to oxidation and heat at prolonged elevated temperatures; hence, making palm oil an ideal ingredient in frying oil blends. Manufacturers and end-users around the world incorporate high percentages of palm oil in their frying oil blends for both performance and economic reasons. In fact, in many instances, palm oil has been used as 100 percent replacement for traditional hydrogenated seed oils such as soybean oil and canola. Products fried in palm oil include potato chips, French fries, doughnuts, ramen noodles and nuts

The industry is adhering to laws and regulations including the RSPO, TFA 2020. The industry is also complying with Hazard & Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements. Being sensitive and proactive on current environmental concerns, the industry is actively pursuing ISO 14000 standard series discussions and formulations notably on climate change, life cycle analysis (LCA), ecolabeling & Design for the Environment (DfE), environmental communications, and environmental management system (EMS). The industry and its R&D arm are continuously working to improve the industry’s environmental performance. Various approaches and technologies aimed to reduce the impact of the industry on the environment have been converted to successful practices in oil palm plantation, palm oil mill, and refineries. The industry envisions achieving the highest standards of sustainability of palm oil. It is important to note that the industry is also participating in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) discussions. This roundtable is a platform to reach mutual understanding at the international level among various palm oil stakeholders namely; oil palm growers, palm oil processors/traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, investment organizations, social or development NGOs and environmental or nature conservation NGOs. This understanding would be translated into common actions towards achieving sustainability of palm oil production and use in its entire supply chain.


An oil palm plantation with its perennial green cover and closed canopy displays the main features of a tropical rainforest. It is also a more efficient carbon sink than a tropical rainforest and helps absorb greenhouse gases. A study has shown that an oil palm plantation assimilates 44.0 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year compared to 25.7 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year a rainforest assimilates. Interestingly, dry matter production remains high throughout the entire 25-year economic life cycle of oil palm trees.


During planting, several measures are taken to prevent soil degradation and conserve soil fertility. On hilly land, contour terracing is carried along steep slopes. Silt pits help reduce the length of slope while trapping soil and plant nutrients. Pruned fronds placed along the slope minimize soil erosion and fertilizer loss. Very often, hilly forest areas with slopes greater than 250 are left untouched. Leguminous cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, recycle organic matter, improve soil structure, keep out weeds, reduce soil compaction and erosion, and promote rainfall acceptance. In oil palm plantations at least 6 species of leguminous crops are planted for the benefits they provide. In coastal plantings, emphasis is placed on proper drainage and water management. This prevents over-draining and deterioration of fragile acids sulphate and peat soils.


Oil palm trees are unique in a way that they have higher leaf area index that allows them to have better photosynthetic efficiency. This results in the palm trees to produce more oxygen to the air and absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A study has shown that an oil palm tree has a leaf area index of 5.6 which is comparable to that of the rainforests.


Inarguably, oil palm provides the highest yield of oil per hectare per year compared to the other oil-bearing crops. A comparison study has shown that a hectare of oil palm yields 10 times more oil than other major oil crops. An average yield of 4 - 5 tonnes of crude oil per hectare of land with best fields give as high as 7 - 8 tonnes of crude oil per hectare makes oil palm the most efficient oil-bearing crop in the world.


Compared to other major oilseed crops, the cultivation and processing of oil palm requires less input of fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel energy to produce one tonne of oil. A study has shown that oil palm requires about 19.2 GJ of energy per hectare per year to produce one tonne of oil which in turn gives back 182.1 GJ of energy per hectare per year through its products. (Note: GJ = Giga joules). This gives oil palm a very favorable input-output energy ratio of 9.5 as compared to 2.5 for soybean and 3.0 for oilseed ripe.

The term ‘sustainable palm oil’ has been diluted and overused as a greenwashing tactic to the point that it is no longer a useful term to distinguish good palm oil from bad. Consumers are being misled by labels on products that say ‘RSPO certified sustainable palm oil.’ Many of the companies that use these labels are in fact still causing rainforest and peatland destruction. Companies that produce, trade and use palm oil must go beyond the inadequate standards of the RSPO to be truly responsible. This is why RAN is encouraging companies to only use ‘responsible’ palm oil. We use the term ‘responsible’ palm oil to describe palm oil that has been produced from known sources without contributing to deforestation, species extinction, high greenhouse gas emissions or human rights violations
Palm oil is found in roughly 50% of packaged goods sold in US or European grocery stores. Palm oil and its derivatives are used in a remarkable array of products, such as ice cream, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, cereals, breakfast bars, cake mixes, doughnuts, potato chips, instant noodles, frozen sweets and meals, baby formula, margarine, and dry and canned soups. Palm oil is also the most widely used frying oil in the world and is commonly used in the American fast food industry for products such as French fries. The palm oil industry has grown dramatically over the past few decades and palm oil now accounts for a quarter of global vegetable oil consumption and nearly 60% of the global trade in vegetable oils. In the U.S. alone, palm oil imports have jumped 485% in the last decade . Besides foods, it is widely used in detergents, soaps, cosmetics and other household goods. It is also used as a biofuel.
Under current regulations, it is legal for food manufacturers to list palm oil simply as “vegetable oil.” Here is a partial list of other names for palm oil-derived ingredients : » Palm Kernel Oil (PKO) and PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo) » Partially Hydrogenated Palm and Palm Kernel Oil (PHP(K)O) » Fractionated Palm and Palm Kernel Oil (FP(K)O) » Organic Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil (OP(K)O) » Palmitate – Vitamin A or Ascorbyl Palmitate » Sodium Laureth Sulphate and Sodium Lauryl Sulphates » Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS) » Elaeis Guineensis » Glyceryl Stearate and Stearic Acid » Steareth -2 and Steareth -20 » Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Lauryl sulfoacetate » Hydrated palm glycerides » Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye » Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate
The science is not entirely settled and health claims about the virtues of palm oil are largely hearsay and based on the properties of fresh and unprocessed palm oil and not the highly processed food additive widely used in packaged foods. The World Health Organization, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils high in saturated