Palm oil is already an ingredient in many of our products. Now with the new national GMO-labeling law, and impending demise of trans fats in our food supply, there are even more reasons for food manufacturers to use this natural, non-GMO ingredient. Most of the palm oil imported into the U.S. is certified sustainably grown in Malaysia.
Malaysian sustainable palm oil has many advantages. While anti-palm oil interests enjoyed tremendous success into the late 1990s, recognition of the adverse impact that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) were having on the health of consumers resulted in a renewed appreciation for natural imported vegetable oils. Most recently, palm oil consumption levels have grown to more than one million tons in the U.S. alone.
Why do food manufacturers prefer to use palm oil?
Snack foods must have a long shelf life after packaging. In major research sponsored by the European Union, a high oleic acid containing sunflower oil was tested for snack food manufacture. Palm olein was used as the reference standard. Both oils performed well. However, the palm olein product had a longer shelf life, and was also much less expensive.
Why this may matter to you: A study published in 2013 also showed that palm olein has a similar effect as olive oil on cholesterol.
Why is palm oil more cost effective?
It is more economical to produce. Palm oil is produced by simple steaming and pressing, with relatively limited use of expensive solvents for extraction compared with other oils. It is also available as a refined oil, requiring at most a mild additional processing before use. It avoids the cost of full refining required for other oils. It also has a higher yield per hectare than other vegetable oils, and is a perennial crop that is harvested year-round. This high productivity of the oil palm makes oil palm’s oil productivity profitable at a price below that of other oils (which are also subsidized by governments in various ways).
What about the environmental concerns linked to oil palm cultivation?
Palm oil is now available with independent certification demonstrating that it has been produced in a sustainable manner without damage to the environment. This addresses the concerns that some consumers have regarding forest conversion and greenhouse gas emissions.