Palm oil is one of the most versatile and commonly used vegetable oils in the world. It’s great for food products and it’s instrumental in the beauty industry where it’s used as a natural moisturizer and texturing agent. It’s estimated to be found in 70 percent of cosmetic products worldwide. This popular ingredient is also a source of controversy, with some people calling for its outright ban. Glamour UK writer Lottie Winter suggests readers take a closer look at the issue before jumping to conclusions. 

According to Winter, “Our world has become an increasingly uncompromising environment, where everything is branded villainous or virtuous with absolutely no grey areas allowed.” She added that social media magnifies this problem. “Sensationalist media picks up these often unfounded arguments, reaffirming and legitimizing them. But the fundamental problem here is that nothing is black and white and the desire to paint everything as such is compounding our problems. This is perfectly exemplified in the case of palm oil.”

Banning palm oil just doesn’t make sense. Food and cosmetic producers would need to switch to another ingredient that would use more land for cultivation than palm oil. Winter explained, “It (palm oil) is versatile and efficacious, and it is also the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop in the world.” Oil palms require about 1/10th the amount of land to produce the same amount of oil than the far less efficient soy or canola crops.

Winter’s article quoted Sally Smith, head of sustainability at Upfield, who also heralded palm oil’s impressive yields.“It’s very efficient and requires less land to produce when compared with other oils and their sources. Therefore, we believe that sustainable palm oil is preferable to some other oil alternatives when looking at it from a combined environmental, taste and performance and health perspective.” 

Banning sustainably produced palm oil in our food supply would also damage an industry that now actively supports responsible cultivation. Organizations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) have established standards that minimize the environmental effect of palm oil cultivation, and in the case of MSPO, support the local farmers who produce the oil. 

Smith suggests consumers focus on initiatives that make palm oil sustainability the norm. That’s certainly the case in Malaysia, where the country is working toward 100 percent of its palm oil being MSPO-certified sustainable. As of August 31, 2019, nearly 3 million hectares have been certified, 60 percent of Malaysia’s palm-planted lands.

You can learn more palm oil facts, backed by third-party experts, at

Malaysian Palm Oil Council

The Palm Oil Health website is your resource for information on the health and nutritional benefits of Malaysian palm fruit oil and palm fruit oil bioactives.

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