How do I know if a product contains palm oil?

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allows palm oil to be labelled simply as “vegetable oil” and indeed its presence can be even less visible as many of the more minor components of a product – colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers and humectants – are commonly palm oil derived. A quick test – if the saturated fat content is around 50% the likelihood of the vegetable oil being palm is high.

In cosmetics, palm oil is labelled Elaeis guineensis but as with the food industry, its presence is often less obvious. Any ingredient which includes the word “palm” (palmitate, palmitoyl or simply palm) will include palm oil. Other ingredients which commonly but not always use palm oil include cetyl alcohol, isopropyl, sodium lauryl sulphate, steareths, fatty alcohol sulphates, glycerine, cocoa butter equivalent and cocoa butter substitute.

How do I make an informed choice?

BOS Australia has put together a list of products which manufacturers tell us are palm oil free or contain segregated certified sustainable palm oil. We have targeted those food categories which are particularly suspect – biscuits, processed foods, chocolates, snacks etc – as well as personal care items.

Some comments to consider when reviewing the lists:

* The list is not all inclusive and there may well be other products in the categories covered which are palm oil free – if you know of any, please send details through to us at
* Where labelling is not definitive, we have attempted to confirm the information in this list through letters from our supporters to the manufacturers.
* The list is not an official accreditation of suppliers’ claims as we do not conduct independent product testing. There are heavy penalties for making false claims on packaging so when a supplier claims “No Palm Oil” we take that as an honest and informed claim.
* Nearly all Australian manufacturers contacted informed us that where products did contain palm oil, it was from sustainable sources. Membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( alone is not a sufficient guarantee of sustainability. RSPO certification is a more demanding standard but we are yet to uncover many Australia producers sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.
* Product specifications can change – please advise us if you suspect palm oil to be in any of the products on our list.

* The list is based on a product by product basis rather than at company level. Many of the companies listed manufacture other products that do contain palm oil.
If we haven’t covered the category you’re interested in, Auckland Zoo’s shopping guide may provide a starting point. There are many familiar brand and product names although you should check the label in case formulations are different between the two countries.

Here is a list of palm oil free alternative products. Click on the link below

palm oil free list_090514