Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, and as such it can be found in thousands of household products in the UK; according to Greenpeace, it can be found in over half of all supermarket products. Without ever knowing it, you may be contributing to the palm oil industry every week when you buy packaged food and toiletries. Cheap and efficient to grow, it's no surprise that palm oil is popular with manufacturers. But palm oil is frequently painted as something to avoid - so what's the truth?

Why is palm oil bad?

Using products that contain palm oil isn't inherently bad, but the issue in recent times is that so many products source palm oil from environments which are being damaged and destroyed during the process. Palm oil grows in tropical rainforests, which are home to a huge variety of unique flora and fauna. Palm oil sourced irresponsibly causes loss of habitat for all of these creatures, including orangutans, tigers, elephants and other endangered species. For this reason, it's often recommended to avoid buying products which use unsustainable palm oil as much as possible, though sometimes it's better simply to exercise your voice and get in touch with companies to let them know that using sustainable ingredients is important to you.

What about sustainable palm oil?

There is such a thing as sustainable palm oil, which is supposed to be grown in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Products using sustainable palm oil will sport the RSPO logo. However, a study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has claimed that so-called sustainable palm oil causes almost as much deforestation as non-certified palm oil, making it a slight improvement at best.

Are there alternatives?

Some consumers choose to avoid palm oil altogether and opt to buy alternative products. This can be quite a lifestyle change considering how extensively palm oil is used, but it is possible. If you want to reduce your total consumption of palm oil, you can try baking your own bread, cutting down on ready meals, and opting for eco-friendly brands of chocolate like Divine.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       <a href="">Oil palm: nursery</a> by DrLianPinKoh licensed under <a href="" title="Attribution License">Creative Commons 2.0</a>