From plantation to Pantry

Author: Scott Gibson
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Have you ever wondered about the process it takes to get palm oil from the plantation all the way to your cupboards at home? It’s can be a lengthy process starting at a plantation that may be far from your home, all the way to a supermarket in your home town and then into your home. The process can be long and complicated to get that final product, and this makes it easy for palm oil to become lost in the supply chain and the final ingridient you see on supermarket shelves may no longer read ‘palm oil’.

What will it say instead? Here is our list of alternative names for palm oil.

What’s the process?

Palm oil is the oil extracted from the fruit of the elaeis guineesis tree; commonly known as the ‘African oil palm’ due to its origins in the tropical rainforests of West Africa. The fruit of the tree is classified as a drupe, which is similar to coconuts, olives, peaches and apricots. There are 2 different types of palm oil depending on which part of the drupe you use. Palm oil comes from the fleshy red part of the fruit, and palm kernel oil comes from the seed. The oil is extracted by squeezing and compressing the fruit until the oil runs out of it. Once this raw oil is extracted, it is sent off for refining.

Palm kernel oil, from the seed, needs more of a process to extract the oil. Firstly, the seeds are heated up and crushed to form a paste. Once the paste is formed, the oil is then extracted by applying pressure to the paste. This method is like the extraction of almond oil and butter. Once the oil is extracted, the raw product will then go to a refinery for processing. Processing involves removing impurities with phosphoric acid, followed by bleaching, which is achieved by mixing the oil with clay to remove the red pigment from the oil.

Once the oil has had the pigment removed by the clay, it is then filtered to remove the clay. The next step in the process is deodorisation where the oil is boiled to remove the vapour which contains the smell. The vapour is then used as biofuel or oleochemicals. Finally, the oil is fractionated, which involves gradual cooling and passing through more filters. Upon cooling some of the oil will crystallize and become solid. This part of the oil can be used in margarines and shortening. The liquid element of the oil can now be used as a cooking fat or ingredient in foods.

Palm oil can be manufactured to be used in a diverse range of common household items from:

·         Chocolate

·         Ice cream

·         Shower gel

·         Soap

·         Shampoo

·         Handwash

·         Washing up liquid

·         Biscuits

·         Cakes

·         Confectionary

·         Cereal’s

·         Chocolate spread

·         Toothpaste

·         Creams, lotions and skincare products

It can be an ingredient that is used in several products. What’s the issue with palm oil and what are the alternatives? Click here to find out.

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