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Health hazard: Consumer advice center advises caution when using palm oil
Palm oil is the most produced vegetable oil in the world. The production of cheap goods contributes to the destruction of the rainforest. In addition, the oil often contains pollutants, including those that may be carcinogenic. Consumer advocates therefore advise caution with foods that contain palm oil.
Rainforest is destroyed due to oil palm plantations
It's in ready meals, chocolate cream, biscuits and margarine: palm oil is the most produced and cheapest vegetable oil worldwide. The increasing number of oil palm plantations destroys rainforests in the warm, humid tropics and causes considerable ecological and social problems in the producing countries. Refining the oil also creates pollutants, including those that may be carcinogenic. Consumer advocates therefore warn of foods that contain palm oil.
Climate change continues to be fueled
As the consumer center writes on its website, palm oil offers manufacturers a number of favorable properties: it is inexpensive, heat-stable and easy to process.
This has drastic consequences for nature. Because: "In Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, huge rainforest areas are cleared and burned every day to make room for the plantations," writes the German association Rettet den Regenwald e.V. on its portal "regenwald.org".
And: "The carbon stored in the jungle vegetation and in the soil is released." This will further fuel climate change.
However, the cultivation of oil palms creates not only ecological but also social problems. It is therefore understandable that there are more and more people who want to avoid cheap oil or prefer products with sustainable palm oil.
How to recognize palm oil in food
But this is not that easy; after all, the oil is found in many foods.
As the consumer center explains, according to EU law on food, the origin of the fat must also be in the list of ingredients, ie "palm", palm fat or "palm oil", in addition to the class name "vegetable oil".
Such labeling is not mandatory for cosmetics and detergents.
However, it is usually not clear whether the palm oil comes from sustainable production. So far there is no state seal.
Consumers are therefore dependent on the rare voluntary labels and information from the providers. These are often difficult to understand and critics criticize the various certifications as inadequate.
Tolerable intake in children quickly exceeded
According to consumer advocates, the refining of palm oil can produce higher levels of fatty pollutants than other vegetable oils, including 3-monochloropropanediol fatty acid ester (3-MCPD).
According to the information, this substance may be carcinogenic. The more palm oil-containing foods are consumed, the greater the absorption of this substance.
The Bavarian Consumer Advice Center asked a total of 26 manufacturers of palm oil-containing baked goods, spreads and snacks about the content of 3-MCPD in their products.
"Using calculation examples, we were able to show that the tolerable daily intake, especially for children, is quickly exceeded," explains Jutta Saumweber, Head of Unit Food and Nutrition at the Bavarian Consumer Center.
The expert recommends parents to observe the list of ingredients and, if possible, to switch to palm oil-free alternatives.
The consumer advice center has summarized some tips for shopping:
- It's best not to use highly processed foods with palm oil. A look at the list of ingredients or a manufacturer's note such as "Without palm oil" can help.
- If there are no alternatives without palm oil, food with palm oil from organic and fair production (organic and fair trade seals) should be preferred.
- Cook and bake more often with fresh, unprocessed food yourself.
- Ingredients that come from palm oil and are used in cosmetics can be recognized by names such as sodium palmitate, isopropyl palmitate, palm kernel alcohol, glyceryl palmitate or pamamide DEA.
"Palm oil-free alternatives can easily be found via Internet research," says the association Rettet den Regenwald e.V. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Consumer advice center: Palm oil: negative consequences for health and the environment, (access: 04.08.2019), consumer advice center
- Association Save the Rainforest: Palm oil - the death of the rainforest, (accessed: 04.08.2019), regenwald.org
- Bavarian Consumer Center: Beware of highly processed foods with palm oil, (accessed: 04.08.2019), Bavarian Consumer Center