Food & Drink

Food & Drink

Palm Oil Update

palm oil

Palm oil, it’s pretty pervasive stuff, isn’t it.  

After writing my post on the importance of reducing our consumption of palm oil, I had a look through my cupboards.  I was shocked to see just how many foods had it in them.  A bag of raisins?  Covered in the stuff.  Oatcakes?  Full of oil.  Crackers.  Naan breads. Garlic bread.  So much so that they’re practically dripping in the stuff.

But to be completely honest, trying to reduce our consumption of palm oil has been difficult.  Really difficult.  If not impossible.  I think it’s easier to start slow and replace some things as you go, rather than trying to cut it all out completely.  I’m not sure if we’d eat and clean and wash otherwise.  It’s not helped when you email companies to ask if any/which of their products are palm oil free and weeks later you still haven’t had a response.  Hello Lush and Little Me Organics.

I have had some joy in replacing some products and foodstuffs with palm oil free stuff.  It’s such a minefield though.  With 30 different names for palm oil I can’t be certain, so please don’t take my word for it that these products are indeed 100% free from oil:

palm oil free shopping guide


Equal Exchange peanut butter – my daughter loves peanut butter but the Sunpat stuff she took a liking to is full of sugar and salt.  I was buying Whole Earth peanut butter before as it’s unsugared and unsalted.  Then I found out it too contains palm oil.  Instead, I found this one, which is unsugared, unsalted, and palm oil free.

Mackies Crisps (available at Sainsbury’s) – made with sunflower oil.

Walkers Crisps – made with sunflower oil

Divine Chocolate – too delicious for words

Weetabix – the classic cereal 

Ready Brek and generally any other plain oat cereal (i.e. no chocolate, raisins, or other additions)

Dorset Cereals – all varieties (click on the link to read Dorest Cereal’s palm oil policy).


Sarakan Toothpaste* –  has an unusual taste and texture that takes a bit of getting used to.  However, it is palm oil-free, unlike other brands of natural toothpaste, like Kingfisher.

Cleaning Products

Bio D cleaning products* – palm oil-free products that cover the whole spectrum of cleaning and washing. From dishwashing liquid, kitchen cleaner, laundry liquid, and dishwasher powder for the kitchen.  And for the bathroom, bathroom cleaner and hand soap.  These come in at a more affordable price.  I think it’s around £4.55 for 1 litre of laundry liquid and £1.88 for washing up liquid.

Ecos Laundry Liquid –  does 50 loads of washing.  Bargain.  It also smells lovely.

The Worst Offenders

I was genuinely shocked when I looked at a bag of raisins (a favourite snack in our house).  It turns out palm oil is used as a glazing agent.  Consequently, my favourite cereal, Fruit and Fibre, is out.  And to be honest I’m a little wary of anything with raisins in them.  I’ll replace this with porridge or Dorset Cereals when I’m feeling flush.

I will share any other foodstuffs and products I come across, and if you have any you want to share then please do in the comments below.  I also plan to update you in a little while with how I’m getting on.

NB: This article was written in 2013 when there were considerably fewer resources about palm oil and palm oil free products.  As such there may be errors contained here as things change.  This page is no longer updated – this post is a much more up-to-date resource.

Food & Drink

Reducing Our Reliance on Palm Oil

palm oil
palm oil

Something we’ve spoken a lot about in our house is palm oil.  Palm oil is ubiquitous in all of our homes. From the food that we eat to the cleaning products we use, even in so-called eco-saviours like bio-diesel. Yet it is almost single-handedly wiping out the Indonesian rainforest and the habitat of the orangutans. Through our shopping habits, we are all unconsciously driving this destruction.

What’s The Problem With Palm Oil?

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia.  The demand for the oil has doubled in the last ten years. This is because it delivers more vegetable oil per hectare than other oils like soya or sunflower.  Its demand has also been driven by western health concerns, particularly fat contents in foods – as palm oil is free of trans fats, unlike other oils.

The problem is that palm oil is usually grown on the site of the former rainforest.  Palm oil plantations cover 6 million hectares of former forests in Indonesia alone, destroying the home of indigenous species, like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. This also triggers enormous releases of carbon dioxide from lost forests and drained peatlands.

Indonesia is now the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, after China and the U.S. And the demand for palm oil is rising. By 2015 Greenpeace estimates that a further 4 million hectares of forest will be cleared for the production of palm oil for use in the bio-fuel market alone. This means that other delicate ecosystems such as the forests of central and west Africa are now being cleared for the growth of oil palm trees.


Reducing Our Reliance On Palm Oil

After speaking more and more about this, and finding out more about the extent of the destruction in Indonesia and beyond we’re going to try to reduce our reliance on palm oil.

It’s going to be a challenge. Here is a list of 30 names palm oil is known by on product labels.  Palm oil is also ubiquitous in many household products. These include bread, biscuits, ice-cream, pizza, frozen chips, crisps, peanut butter, margarine, chocolate, and many more of my vices.  It’s also commonly found in detergent (including “eco-friendly” products like Ecover and Method, surprisingly). And palm oil is also found in personal care products like soap, toothpaste, and shampoos, shower gels, and bubble bath. Anything that foams up basically.

Greenwashing Is Rife

You can purchase products from manufacturers who say that they use palm oil that is sourced sustainably. Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil [RSPO] are allowed to label their products as sustainable.

However I’m not convinced that palm oil can be sourced sustainably, and indeed others are writing off “sustainably sourced palm oil” as greenwash.  Greenpeace, notably, says thatmany RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry“.  

Greenpeace has also found evidence that RSPO members still rely on palm oil suppliers who destroy rainforests and convert peatlands for their plantations, so for us, it’s vital to try to avoid palm oil entirely.

I already check food labels for their salt, sugar, and fat content (I’m a joy to go grocery shopping with!). I guess it’s just a matter of scanning a little harder for palm oil and its associated names.

I’ll update you on how we get on (that update is here!). It’s going to be a tricky one to avoid, that’s for sure. Any tips for remembering the 31 different names for palm oil do let me know. What I do know is that this responsibility shouldn’t fall on us consumers, there should be more legislation at the governmental level.

In the meantime do check out my article on why palm oil is bad for the environment.

* image used from here