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  • Writer's pictureRyan Kane

A Guide to Palm Oil Detection

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

Purposely avoiding palm oil is not an easy task for the average consumer. Anymore it is a grocery shopping feat, requiring extensive knowledge on ingredient terminology, nutrition label intimations, and the common ingredients in brands.

When I scour the aisles and shelves of my local grocery store for snacks, I always (and I mean always) read the ingredient/nutrition label of any unfamiliar component product that catches my eye. Below is a list of the palm oil identifying tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years from studying these labels. I hope you find them to be handy.


Don’t fall for the palm oil concealing mask of “vegetable oil.” Always continue reading the type of oils in parentheses whenever “vegetable oil” is mentioned.

Anything that mentions the word “palm” has palm oil in it. Palm oil can masquerade by various names palm kernel oil, oil palm extract, palmitoyl oxostearamide, palmitate, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. For more information here’s a link to Orangutan Alliance’s: Alternative Names for Palm Oil.

It doesn’t matter whether it says organic, partially hydrogenated, or fractionated palm is all palm oil (usually unsustainable).

Sustainable palm oil doesn’t mean sustainable. Here’s a link to one of my prior blog posts covering this confusing topic.

Rainforest Alliance certified palm oil isn’t the same as RSPO certified palm oil. Both are “sustainable,” however RSPO is solely based in Indonesia and Malaysia, focusing on combating poverty in farming communities. While Rainforest Alliance is global and works on sustainable agriculture without any need for deforestation.

Nutrition Label

If the total fat content in a product is composed of more than 40% saturated fat then it will likely include some form of palm oil.


Note: This is a list of brands that commonly contain palm oil in their products. Be mindful when seeing this brand in stores:

- Cadbury

- Milka

- Russel Stovers

- Whitman’s

- Little Debbie


Note: These are the foods that contain palm oil the most often. ALWAYS CHECK THE LABEL OF THESE FOODS! Although they might be rare, palm oil free products containing these foods do exist:

- Caramels

- Candy Creams

- Peanut Butters

- Sweet Spreads (example: Nutella)

- Pre-made frostings

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