Palm oil and its derivatives, how to recognize them on product labels

Palm oil is widely recognized as the most used vegetable oil worldwide (1). Its versatility is notable, as it is used in a wide variety of products, from snacks and shampoos to biofuels. In fact, it is so common that it is estimated that around 50% of packaged products in most supermarkets contain this oil (2)

This oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), which is native to West Africa. In the past, the use of this oil was limited to basic needs such as food and fiber. However, due to its high yield compared to other vegetable oil crops and its low labor costs, it has become a profitable option for various applications (3). Although at one time palm trees used to be planted in sustainable systems at small scale, growing demand has generated the need to establish large-scale plantations.

The ecological impact of palm oil

The expansion of palm crops is causing the deforestation of large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems valuable for conservation. Unfortunately, the key habitat of several endangered species, such as orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers, has suffered severe devastation. This destruction endangers the survival of these species and represents a great concern for the conservation of biodiversity.

Deforestation also has serious consequences for people who live in forests and use their natural resources. In addition to losing their land, local communities are negatively affected. A worrying example is the catastrophic fires that have occurred in Indonesia due to uncontrolled slashing and burning of plantations.

Endangered animals

The heartbreaking images of orangutans clinging to trees as bulldozers advance should be a wake-up call to stop deforestation. Unfortunately, the problem persists. The Bornean orangutan and the Sumatran orangutan are in serious trouble. Danger of Extinction. In the last two decades, they have lost half of their habitat, leading to a drastic decline in the number of orangutan populations. This situation is worrying and requires urgent measures to protect these critically endangered species.

Production growth

Global palm oil production has seen significant growth in recent decades. Between 1995 and 2017, it has more than quadrupled, going from 15 million tons to an impressive 66 million tons. This increase demonstrates the important role that palm oil plays in the food industry and other related sectors.

The global palm oil market reached a value of $67.3 billion in 2022 and is forecast to experience growth at a CAGR of 5.1% from 2023 to 2030 (4) It is true that completely stopping the demand for palm oil It may be complicated, but consumers can help reduce the destruction caused by corporate interests by supporting the consumption of sustainably produced palm oil.

By choosing products that come from certified sources committed to responsible practices, we can do our part to protect the environment and affected communities.

Other names with which palm oil can be found

Palm oil and its derivatives can be identified by different names besides "palm oil." Although some of these ingredients, such as vegetable oil, listed by the World Wildlife Fund are not always made from palm oil, they could include:

1. Elaeis guineensis
2. Ethyl palmitate
3. Glyceryl
4. Hydrogenated palm glycerides
5. Octyl palmitate
6. Palm oil
7. Palm kernel
8. Palm kernel oil
9. Palm stearin
10. Palmate
11. Palmitate
12. Palmitic acid
13. Palmitoyl oxostearamide
14. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
15. Palmityl alcohol
16. Palmolina
17. Sodium Kernelate
18. Sodium laureth sulfate
19. Sodium lauryl lactyl/sulfate
20. Sodium lauryl sulfate
21. Sodium palm kernelate
22. Stearate
23. Stearic acid
24. Vegetable fat
25. Vegetable oil

If you see these ingredients on a product label, it's helpful to contact the company and ask if they use palm oil and, if so, if it comes from companies committed to sustainable practices.

Additionally, WWF recommends consumers look for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) label to ensure they are purchasing products with certified sustainable palm oil, produced in a socially responsible manner. as environmental. Rainforest Alliance It also has a certification label.


  1. Gesteiro, Eva, et al. “Palm Oil on the Edge. " nutrients, vol 11, iss. 9, 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11092008
  2. Kadandale, Sowmya, et al. "The Palm Oil Industry and Noncommunicable Diseases." Bull World Health Organ, vol. 97, iss. 97, 2019, pp. 118- 128., doi:10.2471/BLT.18.220434
  3. Barcelos, Edson, et al. "Oil Palm Natural Diversity and the Potential for Yield Improvement." Front Plant Sci, vol. 6, 2015, doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00190
  4. Grand View Research: Palm Oil Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Nature (Organic & Conventional), By Product (RBD Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil), By End-use (Pharmaceuticals), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 - 2030

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