Palm Oil: Where it’s Hidden & How to Avoid it

This a topic that’s very close to my heart.

Palm oil is something we’ve all heard of; especially when it comes to the impact it’s having on our environment, ecosystems, animals, and planet. But what is it found in? And how can we avoid it?

According to Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz from The Understory;

Palm oil is in roughly 50% of all packaged goods

The palm oil industry is having major impacts right around the world, particularly in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where a lot of deforestation, loss of habitat, and negative impacts on animal populations within these environments, is happening…

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Both palm oil AND palm kernel oil come from this palm fruit. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit, and is an edible oil, so used in food products. While palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the fruit, and is used in most cosmetic products.

According to The Orangutan Project:

Palm oil plantations are the main driver for deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. These two regions account for 85% of global production of palm oil.

What makes Palm Oil Sustainable?

To make palm oil sustainable, it must not harm people or the environment, but also still make businesses profitable.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) plays a role in determining whether palm oil is sustainable or not. However, this organisation classes palm oil produced from land cleared before 2005 as sustainable, even though it could still have been Orangutan habitat. The Orangutan Project is said to have a firmer approach by not supporting any palm oil sourced from the islands of Borneo or Sumatra.

The RSPO has eight principles palm oil producers must meet in order to be classified as sustainable. They are then reviewed every five years via public consultation, followed by member agreement (a contract between the organisation and producer) on a consensus basis (where both parties must reach an agreement on a course of action to take) for any changes or additions made to the contract.

The 8 principles and criteria the RSPO has in order for palm oil producers to be classified as “sustainable.” (Source).

Today, palm is produced throughout Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

According to The Orangutan Project:

The United Nations Environment Programme has announced that palm oil plantations are now the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. An area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.

In southeast Asia, the burning of forests to clear land for palm oil plantations has become a major source of air pollution. Studies have found that 20% of all global co2 emissions from fossil fuels come from rainforest destruction.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),

Fewer than 80,000 orangutans survive today, their habitats under constant threat of deforestation.

But orangutans are not the only animals impacted by palm oil production. There are fewer than 3,000 Sumatran Elephants, 1,500 Bornean Pygmy Elephants, 80 Sumatran rhinos, and 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild (among other animals impacted by palm oil plantations).

A gorgeous photo captured by Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) of these two beautiful baby orangutans. (Source)

Orangutans play key role in maintaining the health and diversity of ecosystems around them. For instance, some rainforest seeds can only germinate once they’ve passed through an orangutan’s gut. If they were to become extinct, this could mean that many of the diverse species of trees and flora that we see in rainforests around those areas today could eventually die-out, as they would be unable to reproduce.

The Hidden Names for Palm Oil

As palm oil is very cheap and incredibly versatile, it’s become a popular choice by manufacturers to use in a lot of their products.

Common products palm oil is found in include:

  • Packaged sweets (e.g. chocolate, ice-cream, cookies, etc.)
  • Instant noodles
  • Packaged bakery goods (e.g. muffins, bread, etc.)
  • Margarine
  • Cosmetics (e.g. lipsticks, makeup, etc.)
  • Bath soaps
  • Detergents
  • Shampoos
  • Biodiesel

Some fast food chains and store brands palm oil is found in, include:

  • McDonalds
  • Burger King
  • Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut)
  • Wendy’s
  • Starbucks
  • Dairy Queen
  • Dominos
  • Subway
  • CKE Restaurants (Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., La Salsa, Green Burrito),
  • Leon
  • Yo! Sushi
  • Greggs
  • Pret A Manger
  • Itsu
  • Wahaca
  • TGI Friday’s
  • Giraffe
  • Mitchells and Butlers (Harvester, All Bar One)
  • Greene King
  • Whitbread
  • Pizza Express
  • The Restaurant Group (Chiquito, Frankie and Benny’s, Wagamama)
  • Azzurri (ASK)
  • Jamie’s Italian
  • Famous Brands (Gourmet Burger Kitchen)
  • Marston’s
  • Wetherspoons
  • Whole Foods Market ( including 365 Everyday Value)
  • Walmart (including Equate and Great Value)
  • Kroger (including Simple Truth and Private Selection)
  • CVS/pharmacy (including Gold Emblem)
  • Walgreens (including Nice!, Good & Delish, and Well at Walgreens)
  • Target (including brands like Archer Farms and Market Pantry)
  • Costco Wholesale (including brands like Kirkland Signature)
  • Dollar General (including Clover Valley and DG Body)
  • Dollar Tree (including Sassy + Chic and Landmark Confections)

These are just some of the restaurants and brands that still use palm oil in their food production.

A great way to avoid accidentally purchasing products with hidden palm oil, is to make your own! This is my DIY whipped body butter moisturiser that’s 100% natural, plastic-free AND palm oil-free!

Fun fact: Only three vegetable oils must be labelled in food products in Australia and New Zealand; peanut oil, sesame oil and soy bean oil. The reason for this is they pose a high risk for allergic reactions.

All other vegetable oils can be labelled under the generic term, vegetable oil. Manufacturers will often hide their use of palm oil on the label so as not to deter potential customers from buying their product.

According to Palm Oil Investigations, these are the alternate names for palm oil disguised on packaging labels (from A-Z):

Acetic and fatty acid esters of glycerol

Acetylated Monoglycerides

Alkylamidopropyl betaine​

Alkyl alcohol

Alkyl betaine

Alkyl ether sulfate ​

Alkyl Polyglucoside

Aluminium Myristates/Palmitates

Aluminium stearate

Aluminium, calcium, sodium, magnesium salts of fatty acids

Amidopropyl betaine

Ammonium laureth sulphate

Ammonium lauryl sulphate

Amphoteric surfactant

Anionic surfactant ​

APG

Arachamide mea

Ascorbyl palmitate (304)

Ascorbyl stearate

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (vitamin C)​

Azelaic acid

​Beta Carotene

Behentrimonium Methosulfate

BTMS

Butyl Myristate

Butyl stearate

Calcium lactylate

Calcium Myristate

Calcium oleyl lactylate

Calcium stearate

Calcium stearoyl lactylate

CAPB

Capric triglyceride

Caprylic acid

Caprylic / Capric Glycerides

Caprylic triglyceride

Caprylic/capric triglyceride

Caprylic/capric/stearic triglyceride

Capryloyl glycine

Caprylyl glycol

Carboxylic acid soap

Carotene (Sometimes made from palm)

Castile soap (often from palm)

Castor Isostearate Beeswax Succinate​

Ceteareth (2-100)

Ceteareth mbsfl laurethulanate ​

Ceteareth mbhe laurethulanate​

Cetearyl alcohol

Cetearyl ethylhexanote

Cetearyl glucoside

Cetearyl isononanoate

Cetearyl and Sorbitan Olivate

Ceteth-20

Ceteth-24

Cetostearyl Alcohol

Cetrimonium Bromide

Cetremonium Chloride

Cetyl acetate

Cetyl alcohol

​cetyl chloride

Cetyl ethylhexanoate

Cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose

Cetyl lactate

Cetyl Myristate

Cetyl octanoate

Cetyl palmitate

Cetylpyridinium chloride

Cetyl ricinoleate

​Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide

Cetyltrimethylammonium chloride

Citric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

Cocoa butter equivalent (CBE)

Cocoa butter substitute (CBS)

Cocamide DEA

Cocamide MEA

Cocamidopropyl betaine

Coco-Caprylate​

​Coco-Caprylate/Caprate

​Coco Polyglucose

Cocoyl Sarcosine

Conditioning emulsifier

Decyl Glucoside

Decyl Myristate

Decyl oleate

Diacetyltartaric acid esters of monoglycerides

Diacetyltartaric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

Dicaprylyl ether​

Dicocoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate

Dihydroxystearic acid​

Diisostearyl Malate​

Dilinoleic acid

Dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate​

Di-ppg-2 myreth-10 adipate​

Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate

Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate

Distilled Monoglyceride Palm

Dodecanol​

Elaeis guineensis

Emulsifiers: E304, E422, E430, E431, E432, E433, E434, E435, E436, E470, E470a, E470b, E471, E472, E472a, E472b, E472c, E472e, E472f, E473, E474, E475, E476, E477, E478, E479, E480, E481, E482, E483, E491, E493, E494, E495

Emulsifying wax

Epoxidized palm oil (uv cured coatings)

Esterquats

Esters of Myristic Acid

​Ethoxylated Lauryl Alcohol

Ethoxylated Monoglycerides

Ethoxylated SMS

Ethoxylated SMO

Ethoxylated STS

Ethyl lauroyl arginate (243)

Ethyl myristate

Ethyl palmitate

Ethylene glycol diesters

Ethylene glycol monoesters

Ethylene glycol monostearate

Ethyl hexyl Esters-2

Ethylhexylglycerin​

Ethylhexyl hydroxystearate

Ethylhexyl Isononanoate​

Ethylhexyl Myristate

Ethylhexyl Palminate

Ethylhexyl palmitate

Ethylhexyl stearate

Ethylhexylglycerin

Etyl Palmitate

Fatty acids

Fatty acid methyl esters​ (FAME)

Fatty alcohol alkoxylate

Fatty alcohol sulphates

Fatty amines

Fatty isethionate

FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil​

Fractionated Palm Oil​

Glycerin

Glycerin or glycerol (442)

Glycerol esters

Glyceryl cocoate

Glyceryl dioleate​

Glyceryl Dimyristate

Glyceryl distearate

Glyceryl laurate

Glyceryl Linoleate​

Glyceryl monostearate

Glyceryl myristate

Glyceryl oleate

Glyceryl polymethacrylate

Glyceryl Rosinate

Glyceryl stearate

Glyceryl stearate SE

Glycol distearate

Glycol stearate

Guineesis (palm)

Hexadecanoic acid​

Hexadecylic

Hexyl laurate

Hexyldecanol

Humectant 422

Humectant glycerol

Hydrated palm glycerides

Hydrogenated palm glycerides

Hydroxy Stearic Linolenic​

Isoamyl Laurate​

Isobutyl Myristate

Isocetyl alcohol

Isocetyl Myristate

Isocetyl stearate

Isodecyl Myristate

Isodecyl oleate​

Isononyl Isononanoate

Isopropyl esters

Isopropyl isostearate

Isopropyl Myristate

Isopropyl palmitate

Isopropyl titanium triisostearate

Isostearamide DEA

Isostearate DEA

Isostearic acid

Isostearyl alcohol

Isostearyl Hydroxystearate​

Isostearyl isostearate​

Isostearyl Myristate

Isostearyl neopentanoate

Isotridecyl Myristate

Lactic and fatty acid easters of glycerol

Lactylated Monoglycerides

Lauramide DEA

Lauramide MEA

Lauramine oxide

Laureth (Laureth-1, Laureth-2, Laureth-3, Laureth-5, Laureth-6, Laureth-7, Laureth-8, Laureth-9, Laureth-10, Laureth-11, Laureth-12, Laureth-13, Laureth-14, Laureth-15, Laureth-16, Laureth-20, Laureth-21, Laureth-25, Laureth-30, Laureth-38, Laureth-40, Laureth-50) source

Lauric acid

Lauroyl Lactylate​

Lauroyl Lysine​

Lauroyl sarcosine

​Lauryl Alcohol

Lauryl Alcohol Ethoxylates

Lauryl betaine

Lauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagen​

Lauryl lactate

Lauryl glucoside (from palm)

Lauryl Myristate

Lauryl pyrrolidone

Lauryl Sarcosine

​Lecithin

Lecithin Isopropyl Palm Oil

Levulinic Acid

Linoleic acid

Magnesium myristate

Magnesium stearate

Metallic salts of lactylic esters of fatty acids

Methyl Myristate

​MICA LAUROYL LYSINE

Mixed tartaric, acetic and fatty acid esters of glycerol

Mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids

Mono glycerides of fatty acids

Monoglyceride citrate

Monopalmitate

MTC oil – (medium chain triglycerides – often a mix of coconut & palm)

Myreth 3 Myrisrate​

Myristate

Myristic acid

Myristic Cetrimonium Chloride Acid

Myristoyl

Myristyl myristate

Myristoyl Sarcosine

Myristoyl Sarcosinate

Myristyl alcohol

Myristyl lactate

Myristyl myristate

N-Butyl Esters

Nonionic surfactant

Octadecanoic acid​

Octyl palmitate

Octyl stearate

Octyldodecanol​

Octyldodecyl myristate

Octydodecyl stearate

Octyldodecyl stearoyl stearate

Oleamide MIPA

Oleic acid

Oleyl betaine

Oleyl Myristate

Oleoyl Sarcosine

​Olivem 1000

Oliv-emulse

Oliv-wax LQC

OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil

Palmester

Palm fruit oil

Palmitoleic acid​

Palm kernel amidopropyl amine oxide

Palm kernel amidopropyl betaine​

Palm kernel cake

Palm Kernel Diethanolamide​ ​

Palm kernel oil

Palm Kernel Olein

Palm Kernel Stearin

Palm oil

Palm olein oil

Palm stearine

Palmate

Palmitate

Palmitamidopropyl betaine​

Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride

​Palmitic acid

Palmitoyl acid

Palmitoyl alcohol

Palmitoyl myristyl serinate

Palm oleic acid

Palmitoyl oligopeptide

Palmitoyl oxostearamide

Palmitoyl tetrapeptide

Palmitoleic acid

Palm Methyl Ester

PBS Base

Palmolein​

Palmfonate

Palmosalt

Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil

​PEG-150 Distearate

​PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl tetrastearate

Pentaerythritol tetra caprai caprylate

Pentaerythrityl tetracaprylate/tetracaprate

Pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate

Peptide complex

PG dicaprylate/caprate

PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil

PKO – Palm Kernel Oil

PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein

PK oleic acid

Planta cleanse

Polyaminopropyl biguanide stearate​

Polyethylene (40) stearate (431)

Polyglycerate-60

Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids

Polyglycerol esters of interesterified ricinoleic acid

Polyglycerol-2 oleyl ether

Polyglyceryl-3 dilisostearate

Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate​

Polyglyceryl-4 isostearate

Polyglyceryl-4 laurate

Polyglyceryl-4 oleyl ether

Polyglyceryl-10 heptahydroxystearate​

Polyhydroxystearic Acid​

Polysorbate 60 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate

Polysorbate 65 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan tristearate

Polysorbate 80 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolete

Polysorbate-20

Polysorbate-40

Polysorbate-60

Polysorbate-65

Polysorbate-80

Polysorbate-85

Potassium Cetyl Phosphate​

Potassium Myristate

Potassium stearate

​Propanediol dicaprylate

Propylene Glycol Alginate​

Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids

Propylene glycol laurate

Propylene glycol monoester

Propylene Glycol Myristate

Propylene glycol stearate

Retinyl palmitate

Saponified elaeis guineensis

Saturated Fatty acid

Sleareth

SLES

SLS

sodium alkyl sulfate

Sodium cetearyl sulphate

Sodium cocoyl glutamate​

sodium cocoyl glycinate

​Sodium cocoyl isethionate

Sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate

Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)

Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye

Sodium lactylate; sodium oleyl lactylate; sodium stearoyl lactylate

Sodium laurate

Sodium laurel

Sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulphate

Sodium laureth – 1 sulphate

Sodium laureth – 2 sulphate

​Sodium laureth – 3 sulphate

Sodium laureth-13 carboxylate

Sodium lauroamphoacetate​

Sodium lauroyl lactylate

Sodium lauryl

Sodium lauryl ether sulphate

Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate

Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate

Sodium lauryl sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate

Sodium lauryl sulphate

Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate

Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate

Sodium Myristate

Sodium palm kernelate

Sodium palm kerneloyl isethionate

Sodium palmate

Sodium palmitate

Sodium polyarylsulfonate​

Sodium stearate

Sodium stearoyl Fumarate

Sodium stearoyl glutamate

Sodium stearoyl lactylate

Sodium Trideceth sulphate

Solubiliser PS20

Sorbitan Caprylate

Sorbitan Cocoate

Sorbitan Diisostearate

Sorbitan Distearate​

​Sorbitan ester

Sorbitan isotearate

Sorbitan laurate

Sorbitan monoglyceride

Sorbitan monolaurate

Sorbitan monopalmitate

Sorbitan monostearate (491)

Sorbitan oleate

​Sorbitan olivate

Sorbitan palmitate

Sorbitan sesquioleate

Sorbitan trioleate

Sorbitan tristearate

Sorbitan tristearate (492)

Sorbitan triglyceride

Stearalkonium bentonite​

Stearalkonium chloride

Stearalkonium hectorite

Stearamide MEA

Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine

Steareth-2

Steareth-7

Steareth-10

Steareth-20

Steareth-21

Stearic acid

Stearic acid or fatty acid (570)

Stearoyl sarcosine

Stearyl alcohol

Stearyl dimethicone

Stearyl heptanoate

Stearyl Stearoyl Stearate​

Stearyl tartarate

Stearyltrimethylammonium Chloride​​

Stearoyl lactic acid

Stearoyl Sarcosine

Steartrimonium chloride

Stearalkonium bentonite – Ingredient used to make nail polish

​Stearalkonium Chloride

Stearalkonium hectorite – Ingredient used to make nail polish

Succinylated monoglycerides

Sucrose esters of fatty acids

Sucrose stearate

Sucroseesters of fatty acids

Sulphonated Methyl Esters​

Surfactant CCG

Taxanomic

TEA-lauryl sulphate

TEA-stearate

Tetradecyloctadecyl Myristate

TMP esters

Tocotrienols (Vitamin E)

Tocopherols (Vitamin E)

​Tocopheryl linoleate

Triacetin

Triacetin (1518)

Tribehenin

Tricaprylin

Tricaprylyl Citrate​

Tridecyl Myristate

Trifluoroacetyl Tripeptide-2

Triisostearoyl polyglyceryl-3 dimer dilinoleate​

Tristearin

​Veg-emulse

Vegetable emulsifier

Vegetable glycerin

Vegetable Oil

Vitamin A palmitate

​Vitamin C Ester

Yeast with 491

Zinc Myristate

Zinc stearate

Palm Oil Investigations

Now, I use a palm oil scanner app to scan the barcodes of different products I’m looking to purchase, just to make it easier. It saves time rather than checking every label against all these different alternate names for palm oil (there’s about every name under the sun here). There are a few different scanners out there, but the one I’ve found to be the most reliable is this one.

Make sure to always check labels. I use my palm oil barcode scanner app on my phone to determine whether a product is palm oil-free or not. These chocolate bars are 100% vegan and palm oil-free! Both Loving Earth & VEGO chocolate companies use Certified Fair trade and Organic ingredients that are Palm oil-free.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.

How do you go about avoiding palm oil? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

Schaeffer Yildiz, Ashley. Palm Oil’s Dirty Secret: The Many Ingredient Names For Palm Oil. The Understory. Retrieved from https://www.ran.org/the-understory/palm_oil_s_dirty_secret_the_many_ingredient_names_for_palm_oil/

Breyer, Melissa. (Updated: December 7, 2020). 25 Sneaky Names for Palm Oil. Treehugger. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/sneaky-names-palm-oil-4858743

What is Palm Oil?. The Orangutan Project. Retrieved from https://www.orangutan.org.au/what-is-palm-oil/

Luff, Bev. Alternate Names for Palm Oil. International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark. Retrieved from https://www.palmoilfreecertification.org/alternate-names-for-palm-oil

Names for Palm Oil. Palm Oil Investigations. Retrieved from https://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/names-for-palm-oil.html

Shah, Vaidehi. (March 23, 2017). What is sustainable palm oil?. Eco-Business. Retrieved from https://www.eco-business.com/news/what-is-sustainable-palm-oil/

Certified sustainable palm oil. Green Palm Sustainability. Retrieved from https://greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/sustainable-palm-oil

Endangered species threatened by unsustainable palm oil production. WWF. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/endangered-species-threatened-by-unsustainable-palm-oil-production

Rhino Populations. Save the Rhino. Retrieved from https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino-info/population-figures/

Bornean Orangutan. WWF. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/bornean-orangutan

Orangutan Facts. Orangutan Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.orangutan.org.uk/orangutans

Which Everyday Products Contain Palm Oil?. WWF. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

Brands and Companies that use Palm Oil. (December 7, 2020). Ethical Consumer. Retrieved from https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/palm-oil/brands-companies-use-palm-oil