Where Palm Oil is Hidden & How to Avoid it

what is palm oil found in

The hidden names for Palm Oil and how to avoid it in everyday products. The products, brands, foods and items palm oil can be found in.

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 found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in

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 is palm oil found in

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.

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).

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.

what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in

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.

Only three vegetable oils must be labelled on 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.

A list (from A-Z) of the alternate names for palm oil disguised on packaging labels can be found here on the Palm Oil Investigations post.

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.

For more homemade recipe ideas and products you can make yourself to help avoid palm oil hidden in everyday items you find at the store, see here.

what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in
what is palm oil found in

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post. 

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

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa


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

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