​The Surprising Food Products That Can Contain Palm Oil

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​The Surprising Food Products That Can Contain Palm Oil

You'll have no doubt seen Iceland's 2018 Christmas ad, which made headlines recently following claims that it had been 'banned' for not complying with 'political rules'.

Produced in partnership with Greenpeace, the 90-second advert is narrated by actress Emma Thompson and features an animated orangutan called Rang-Tan, who's had to flee to a little girl's bedroom after his home in the rainforest is destroyed by all the 'orrible humans.

While it's transpired that the whole 'banned' label that Iceland's been proudly waving around as it basks in viral glory isn't quite as it seems (industry advisory body Clearcast has said it's not the content of the ad that's too political, it's the input of an environmental activist group that is), it's certainly brought the issue of palm oil into the limelight - which is no bad thing, given that it's one of the environment's biggest enemies, destroying rainforests as part of its production process.

But while many of us have heard of palm oil, not everyone knows WTF it's actually used for. You'll be delighted to know it's quite a lot.


As palm oil has a high melting point and is semi-solid when at room temperature, it's widely used to enhance the texture of something. It's also versatile and cheaper than animal fats, meaning it's popular with large manufacturers.

Some of us might know about palm oil in chocolate spread of peanut butter, but according to the World Wildlife Fund, its use in everyday food products like some brands of ice cream, margarine, packaged bread, chocolate, cookies and other baked goods might be more far-reaching than we'd realised.


It's also found in other, slightly more surprising products like pizza dough (where it's used to stop the dough from sticking together and to enhance texture) and instant noodles (where palm oil comprises up to 20 percent of the weight of packets, used to pre-cook the noodles so that all you have to do is add hot water.


Outside of the food cupboards and fridges, palm oil can also be found in items like soap, biodiesel, detergent, shampoo and makeup.

According to WWF, there's a couple of things you can do to find out about the palm oil content of something.

"Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil," the website says.

"This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way."

Even many ice creams contain palm oil, which makes it smoother and creamier. Credit: PA
Even many ice creams contain palm oil, which makes it smoother and creamier. Credit: PA

Alternatively, if you can't find the RSPO label, you can try and find the Green Palm label.

The WWF site continues: "This label indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil.

"Proceeds from Green Palm certificates help growers fund the transition to sustainable palm oil."


Palm oil and its derivatives can also appear under many names, so the WWF urges consumers to be wary of terms including: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, ElaeisGuineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate and Palmityl Alcohol.

Extinct: A race against time to save our endangered species. Read more from our campaign here

Featured Image Credit: PA/Iceland

Topics: Food, News, UK, Iceland

Jess Hardiman
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