What Is Palm Oil And Why Is It So Controversial?

BY BALANCE FESTIVAL TEAM | TEGAN HEDLEY | IN PARTNERSHIP WITH BOUNCE
Jun 17, 2021
What Is Palm Oil And Why Is It So Controversial?
You probably know that palm oil is controversial, but you’d be forgiven for not exactly knowing why. Is it bad for you? Is it bad for the environment? There’s a lot of confusion out there. So, let’s get straight to the point: your snack doesn’t need it. Fortunately, individuals looking to avoid it will find more choice than ever out there. Among those who choose not to use it in their products are Bounce, who produce ultra-indulgent yet all-natural, high protein snack balls in 11 different flavours, perfect for a healthy yet hedonistic 3pm fix. But first, let’s find out more about palm oil.





What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil, found in the fruit of oil palm trees and made either by extracting the oil from the fruit of the palm tree itself, or by crushing the kernel or stone in the centre of the fruit, with both components able to be used for different means. The majority is cultivated and produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, with these two countries exporting approximately 42 million tonnes each year.

As is so often the case, the prevalence of palm oil has much to do with money. Palm oil’s allure stems from the fact that it’s able to be produced in high-yield with relatively cheap production costs, much more so than most animal or other plant-based fats. Thanks to its high melting-point, works effectively in everything from baking to frying, to making spreads more, well… spreadable!

Why is it controversial?

Critics argue that palm oil is contributing heavily to rapid deforestation, with wide areas of tropical forest being cleared to make way for large-scale palm oil plantations. In doing so, the natural habitats of species including monkeys, rhinos and elephants have been destroyed; according to the World Wildlife Foundation, 43% of the Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra, which is home to endangered species of tigers, has now been taken over by illegal palm oil plantations.

What’s more, with burning often used as a means of clearing this land, combined with the disturbance of carbon-rich peat soils, millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere every year. At present, Indonesia is the world’s third highest global emitter of greenhouse gases, due to its deforestation rate (1). Add that to the water and soil pollution caused by the process of extracting the palm oil, and you can see how it attracts criticism.  

What is palm oil found in?

Despite its many ecological drawbacks, the list of products that contain palm oil is virtually endless – it features in everything from food products to make up, soap, detergents, biofuel. Aside from being found in places you’d never expect, like pizza dough and ice cream, it also seems to be particularly prevalent in many tasty snack foods, with big brands that use palm oil including Nutella, Mr Kipling and Maltesers.

Is palm oil a vital ingredient?

It’s not a vital ingredient and a growing number of brands are now moving away from including this in their recipes. Bounce, whose creative flavours include, Hazelnut Praline, Choc Brownie and Millionaire (my personal favourite) have chosen not to include this in any of their products: “We were founded with the ethos of helping people be the best that they can be, and this extends to every aspect of our snacks. We don’t just want to provide something that is tasty and nutritious, but also something which empowers our consumers to live a lifestyle they love” thier Marketing Director, Nia Salisbury told us.




Is there a sustainable alternative?

Initiatives have been put in place to try to make palm oil more sustainable, although it’s complicated as to whether these go far enough. Some brands, including those mentioned above, have moved towards eco-friendlier options, and now only use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, which lists environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce sustainable palm oil. However, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), who set out this criterion, just 19% of palm oil globally is certified by the RSPO.

Is palm oil bad for your health?

At present, there’s no evidence to suggest that palm oil will have no worse negative health ramifications than any other kind of oil high in saturated fat, so long as it is consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet. However, if you’re aiming for a healthy yet hedonistic snack, then knowing that you’re opting for one that is nutritious, balanced and convenient, and strays away from palm oil altogether has got to be the way to go, right?





Find out more about the whole range of Bounce balls – from their Maple Pecan Cashew to their deliciously decadent Chocolate Brownie over on their website or follow them on Instagram.

Save 15% on your first order with the code balance15. Order before 31.12.2021.
 
  1. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/palm-oil
  2. https://www.nestle.co.uk/en-gb/media/newsfeatures/we-need-to-talk-about-palm-oil
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