Palm Oil’s Dirty Secret: The Many Ingredient Names For Palm Oil

Written by Ashley Schaeffer

Topics: Agribusiness

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palm oil infographic

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Did you see the palm oil infographic we released today? I hope so! If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.

Were you shocked to find out that palm oil is in half of the products in your pantry? Yep, that’s right, palm oil is in roughly 50% of all packaged goods, from cookies, peanut butter, and breakfast cereal to cleaning products, laundry detergent, lipstick, and body lotion.

Are you wondering how that’s possible, because you don’t see the words “palm oil” on many of the ingredient labels in your pantry?

Here’s the scoop: Palm oil is often disguised, hidden behind many different ingredient names you probably don’t recognize when you go to your pantry or bathroom to check. To make things even more confusing for you as a consumer, sometimes companies will only disclose ingredients like “vegetable oil,” and though that vegetable oil blend likely contains palm oil, it’s not always a labeling requirement.

To help you navigate these confusing waters and avoid unwittingly voting for rainforest destruction with your dollars, here is a partial list of other names for palm oil-derived ingredients:*

  • PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
  • PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
  • PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
  • OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate (NOTE: Vitamin A Palmitate is a very common ingredient in breakfast cereals and we have confirmed 100% of the samples we’ve investigated to be derived from palm oil)
  • Palmate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Chemicals which contain palm oil
  • Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  • Hydrated palm glycerides
  • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  • Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (names with palmitate at the end are usually derived from palm oil, but as in the case of Vitamin A Palmitate, very rarely a company will use a different vegetable oil)

*Disclaimer: Through research we’ve found that Vitamin A Palmitate can be derived from any combination of vegetable oil such as olive, coconut, canola and/or palm oil. Though in all the cases we’ve documented, companies use palm oil to make derivatives like Vitamin A Palmitate, it can be tricky to know for sure.

49 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. David says:

    Hi. Good work you do. However, there a bunch of links off your palm oil pages that are dead.

    Can you send me a list of companies that regularly use palm oil in their products–and even product names?

    David Radcliff
    Director
    New Community Project

  2. Mike G says:

    Hey David,

    Thanks for the heads up. Which page are you talking about in particular? This one: http://ran.org/palm-oil ? Or another?

    I’ll get one of our campaigners working on palm oil to respond to your question about companies/products.

  3. Lori says:

    This is a great site – just discovered my child now has to carry around an epi-pen due to how severely allergic he is to palm oil. Nice to find a site that has a list of the other names for this.

  4. Caralee says:

    You mentioned that Glyceryl stearate contains palm oil, what about glyceryl distearate?

  5. Tara says:

    Hi

    What products contain palm oil? I really want to know because I’ve recently been on a trip to Sarawak, Borneo and have gone trekking in the rainforest. It is beautiful and full of life, although maybe way too hot, but I found out that all of it is being cut down for palm oil plantations. So I thought, if I don’t use palm oil, and encourage my friends to do the same, we can make a difference, and hopefully stop some trees from being used for palm oil plantations.

    We may only be ten and eleven, but we can make a difference.

  6. Hanisah says:

    we were learning about palm oil at school and we found out that there are many perspectives about it

  7. amy says:

    we were learning about palm oil at school like hanisah she commented too and i learned i hate the people who kill animals and burn forests just for there own good MONEY!! ehhh

  8. amy says:

    leave animals alone !!!!!!!!!!

  9. Hanisah says:

    kit kat has palm oil in it to

  10. amy says:

    i hate the people who think that they can invade other animals life how would they like it if we came in their house and set it on fire but stole all the tvs and good stuff

  11. Julie Whittall says:

    Can you please send me a list of things which contain palm oil, so i can avoid them?

    Many thanks

  12. Cindie says:

    Start reading labels before you buy. If you see the word “palm,” or any of the others on the list, choose a different product. Orangutangs are already endangered and the only way to stop this gross stupidity is to stop buying products with palm oil. And fresh ground peanut butter, made just from peanuts, is delicious. Read the labels!

  13. GDiFonzo says:

    Is sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate always made from palm oil, though? I’d really like to know.

    @Tara: There are a lot of brands out there that include palm oil.
    –Unilever brands, including Dove
    –Girl Scout cookies
    –Kiss My Face personal care products (I wrote to them on this issue because they have a green image, and I never got an answer)

  14. ZepposNonno says:

    as ugly as some of these issues may be, hate, and I refer to you Amy, is a strong word. You may want to reconsider you words before committing them to paper (electronic or otherwise). Hate is a word that brings to mind a lack of ability to look at a subject objectively. A lack of ability to compromise. While certain issues should not be compromised, to appear unmovable isn’t endearing. No, if I may borrow from an old song, we should not “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”. But we need to not hate. Take a look around at all the hate in this world then consider the usage of such a word.

  15. angie says:

    do you have any lists of companies, products that do not use palm oil? it almost seems like this list would be shorter and easier to shop with. thank you. :)

  16. Carol Nash says:

    Great work; I am trying to find a pretty comprehensive list of cosmetic and food products in the US that contain palm oil. I will be doing a local radio spot within the week on the dire plight of orangutans and will be including the need to eliminate palm oil in our daily lives. Please help!

  17. Regan says:

    Is natural coconut oil an ok substitute? As a vegan most vegan margarines have palm oil, which now of course I will be avoiding but looking for a good substitute.

    This absolutely broke my heart. To think our choices have such far reaching and unbelievably horrific consequences. I heard palm oil was bad but really had no idea just how bad it was. Rest assured, I will check every label and avoid any product containing this and other “hidden” palm oil derivatives. I’ll be sharing this with my personal and business page and hope we can really get this message spread far and wide!!! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this!!

  18. Sarah says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the info, and great infographic! I wanted to let you know that the Facebook share button is not working. I have tried a few times and I just keep getting an error. I’ll try again tomorrow, but in case it’s not just a user error I wanted to give you a heads up!

    Thanks!

  19. Resa says:

    Here’s a list of companies that are palm oil-free, and a list of companies that need persuasion, with easy links to their contact pages –
    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/guide-vegan-products-and-palm-oil/

    Have fun :)

  20. Heather says:

    Hi,

    We are an English based magazine which rates companies on their ethical policies. One of the criteria is palm oil. We have a palm oil free company listing and you can check brands / companies to see whether they have a sustainable palm oil use policy.

    http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx

    Check it out.

    Kind regards,

    Heather

  21. Betzi says:

    I also have a child newly diagnosed with a palm allergy. Your list is going to be life-saving for many. If folks find any names missing from this list, I’d love to know!

    Thank you!

  22. rory says:

    what food has palm oil in it can you tell me

  23. shelby says:

    i agree with you i am in kidseco club and is trying to raise awerniss for palm oil

  24. Kazuya says:

    This is extremely useful…Thank you for the secret…

  25. Kazuya says:

    THIS IS SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO AWESOME.Who created this.PLEASE TELL ME THIS SO AWESOME THANK YOU IF YOU CREATED IT>PLEASE NOTE YOU ARE AWESOME AND AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Jet says:

    This is so awesome and cool.Thank you for the dirty secret whoever created this website.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Jet says:

    This is so awesome and cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Kenji Narukami says:

    This is so bad so bad evil.

  29. Isabel says:

    This is great, thanks so much for putting this up, i believe it is important that people know the destruction that is caused by simple choices made in the super market.
    Thanks again!

  30. paramecium says:

    Thanks for the info! Very helpful, we think my 2 year old son may be allergic to palm oil. I never paid attention to it before; and had no idea palm oil was such a horrible thing for the environment!! I’m glad we are having to go palm oil free! :)

  31. clare says:

    Hi please join this fb page to contact me as my son has a peanut and palm oil allergy and we were told it was very rare so would love some numbers of people who are https://www.facebook.com/groups/314395208597263/486693408034108/?comment_id=486862884683827&notif_t=group_comment

  32. Angie says:

    This is crazy wow I never knew that thank you this will help me save money

  33. Core says:

    Folks

    Can any one drop me mail(courage.isiakpere@gmail.com) on companies that could need palm oil as Bi-product for their finish products or their operations in UK?

  34. roxanne says:

    Thank you for compiling this list of names. We need to get this info out there to allThank you so much for letting us know what we can do to help stop the destruction of the rainforest for our use. What are the alternatives to putting palm oil ingredients in all these diverse products, from vitamins! to cookies to dish soap? I am using Ultra Dish mate with coconut oil surfactants made by For Love of the Planet.
    Your work is greatly appreciated!

  35. Patricia Ortiz says:

    Finally consumers are getting the idea and organizations are informing them. Long have I awaited this list and the news that Mr. and Mrs. Consumer are interested in it. Often inaction is caused not so much by indifference as by lack of information. I have read that a majority of the common people of Indonesia don’t even know that it’s illegal to kill an orangutan. Education is a good start toward a solution. Thanks for posting the list so people can learn.

  36. I am sick of big companies distorying our world to make money. We cannot lose anymore animals to these people.
    Time to stop them lining there pockets and fattin there bank accounts.

  37. when there is apparent negative health issues involved why

    can’t we fight for total ban of this poisonous substace.

  38. Paul says:

    It is pretty frustrating to see all of the products out there contaminated with Palm Oil.Being severely allergic to Palm Oil I have to be on a contant look out when buying things in the store. I was dissapointed to see it show up in the Lactose free milk I was buying. There are more people allergic to this crap than realize they are. The allergic reactions to Palm Oil vary in intensity. In my case it hinders proper digestion of food by causing a severe irritation to the lining of my entire digestive tract.I hope more scrutiny is brought to bear on this substance.

  39. Maria says:

    Thanks for all the interesting information. Does anyone happen to know whether there is such a thing as a blood test for allergy to palm oil (in the US)? Thanks so much.

  40. Hydrated palm glycerides are listed, but I’m not sure about glycerin itself.

    In the case of glycerin Tom’s of Maine says that:

    “Our glycerin is domestically sourced and derived from soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, coconut, palm kernel oil, and/or palm oils. It does not contain diethylene glycol, and is not genetically modified.”

    http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ingredients/overlay/glycerin

    By domestically sourced maybe it is saying that the glycerin supplier is based in the U.S., but the palm oil itself is coming from Malaysia and Indonesia:

    http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ingredients/overlay/palm-kernel-oil

    “The palm kernel oil we use originates from plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.”

    On the general issue of palm oil they say:

    “As a general policy, we don’t name our suppliers. Any ingredient we use, whether sourced domestically or internationally must meet our strict guidelines for safety, purity, consistency, and social/environmental sensitivity…..

    Toms of Maine suppliers of palm oil and palm kernel oil are all members of the RSPO [Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil], an organization that was formed in response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil…..”

    https://tomsofmaine.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/107/kw/palm%20oil

    http://www.rspo.org/

    Anyway, perhaps there could be two (or three additions) to the list here:

    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/guide-vegan-products-and-palm-oil/

    (there’s also a list here: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx, but these are U.S. companies, and that’s apparently a UK site)

    *Tom’s of Maine: http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ — Palm oil suppliers are members of the RSPO.

    https://tomsofmaine.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/107/kw/palm%20oil

    *Seventh Generation: — Purchases palm oil credits, and also have set a goal to purchase segregated palm oil.

    http://www.seventhgeneration.com/palmoil

    *Dr. Bronner’s — Not sure — I just e-mailed them.

    http://www.drbonners.com/

  41. That last link there should be:

    http://www.drbronners.com/

    I missed the second “r” …

  42. Dr. Bronner’s wrote back to me and the palm oil used in their products comes from Ghana — it is fair trade and organic.

    One can read more about the system they set up here:

    http://www.drbronner.com/palm_oil_from_ghana.php

    There is also a video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d03Jm8xv4sg

    Dr. Bronner’s along with other companies signed a pledge written by Rainforest Action Network:

    http://understory.ran.org/2008/09/04/ten-companies-sign-our-palm-oil-pledge/

    http://understory.ran.org/2008/09/04/update-dr-bronners-signs-the-palm-oil-pledge/

    David Friedman

  43. save the enviorment FACT: in the mountians of china the pandas bamboo is getting cut down

    SAVE THE ENVIORMENT PLEASE.

  44. Karim Acuna-Askar says:

    Hello everyone! I sort of have a hunch that palm oil may be allergenic in some way because after eating the typical microwavable popcorns (made with palm oil) I have observed some eruptions on the skin, after doing it a few times. So, not sure, need to be scientifically proven, of course, but my hunch is that palm oil may somehow play some kind of allergenic role on skin sores.

  45. fuller j says:

    a lot of your posts are about the rain forest. palm oil by any name is the highest in sat. fat of all the oils. humans should not eat this stuff anyway anytime for any reason…….

  46. Soraya says:

    Every list I’ve seen so far lists stearic acid and glyceryl stearate as products that definately contain palm oil. You can’t claim this since stearic acid can also be made from shea butter and cocoa butter. Although it is often mixed with palmitate it’s also available in its pure palm oil free form, and I do know of companies that use this and explicitly mention they do not use palm oil in their products. So you can say that gaining attention to this subject has been succesfull. But it also calls the need for some updating on your behalf.

  47. Veronica Toohey says:

    Does Arbonne use palm oil to make their palmitate???

  48. Trish says:

    Don’t forget to ask about prescripton medications. My daughter has been ill since taking a new medication and after talking to the pharmacist I have found that it not only contains trace amounts of soy, gluten and soy
    (all allergens for my daughter), it also contains Stearic Acid!. I’ve taken her to the hospital and had many tests to find out why she’s been sick and it’s been her seizure medication!!!!

  49. Jes says:

    What about Isopropyl palmate?

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