What’s the deal with palm oil labelling?

In my quest to discover and purchase palm oil free food and products, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to know more about how to identify palm oil in ingredient lists and familiarize myself with the complications associated with palm oil labeling.

Here's what I've learned so far:

Under current food labeling laws in Australia, palm oil can be classified as vegetable oil making it difficult to know for sure if a product contains palm oil. To complicate things further, just because a product contains vegetable oil does not mean it contains palm oil; but unless it specifies a different type of oil like peanut oil or sunflower oil, then chances are it contains palm oil. The Australian government requires peanut oil, soybean oil, and sesame oil to be labeled for allergy reasons but such regulations do not extend to palm oil.

Palm oil can appear on an ingredient list in over 30 different ways because there is no law mandating a uniform and consistent label. I don't know about you, but memorizing all the different names and forms of palm oil is not something I have time for, so I recommend bringing a list along with you that you can crosscheck during your shopping. In case it's helpful, I've included the list here.

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Vegetable Fat
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate ^
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate ^
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS) ^
  • Palm Kernel#
  • Palm Oil Kernel #
  • Palm Fruit Oil #
  • Palmate #
  • Palmitate #
  • Palmolein #
  • Glyceryl Stearate #
  • Stearic Acid #
  • Elaeis Guineensis #
  • Palmitic Acid #
  • Palm Stearine #
  • Palmitoyl oxostearamide #
  • Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 #
  • Steareth -2 *
  • Steareth -20 *
  • Sodium Kernelate #
  • Sodium Palm Kernelate #
  • Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate *
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate ^
  • Hyrated Palm Glycerides #
  • Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye ^
  • Cetyl Palmitate #
  • Octyl Palmitate #
  • Cetyl Alcohol ^
  • Palmityl Alchohol #

# These ingredients are definitely palm oil or derived from palm oil.

* These ingredients are often derived from palm oil, but could be derived from other vegetable oils.

^ These ingredients are either derived from palm oil or coconut oil

Another trick for identifying palm oil in your food is by looking for saturated fats. Palm oil is a saturated fat so if a product lists vegetable oil as an ingredient and over 40% of its fat content is saturated fat, you can almost guarantee the product contains palm oil.

Keep in mind that that almost all prepackaged snack food and pastries made by the well known brands will contain palm oil so it's best to avoid those product all together if you can help it. By doing this, you are also making a healthier choice and reducing your waste!

Finally, you can contact Palm Oil Investigations to ask if a specific product has palm oil or download their palm oil scanner app here.

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