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International Orangutan Day

Today is International Orangutan Day. And this post is a little later than I would have liked as I have been busily organising a morning tea for both my office, and my sisters office, full of palm oil free goodies, to raise awareness and much needed funds for the the Center for Orangutan Protection, to assist them in building an orangutan sanctuary in Kalimantan.

Orangutan mum & bub coming in for feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

Orangutan mum & bub coming in for feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

While I was baking up a storm, I pondered what to write on this post - I feel like I'm already bombarding you with palm oil information here, and I don't want to become a broken record - repeating the same stuff ad-nauseam. But then I thought back to when I was first learning about palm oil, and that I was always looking for more information, new blogs, more lists, anything I could dig up. And I'm still like that, always looking for more information, and still finding gems in among it all.

So, a quick recap. Palm oil is a cheap, shelf stable, vegetable fat found in everything from margarine to shampoo, and cosmetics to Tim Tams.

But how do you know if something has palm oil in it? Given the food labelling laws in Australia, it can be quite challenging, and cosmetics are probably more confusing! In food products, palm oil will occasionally be labelled as palm oil, but it is more likely to be labelled as 'vegetable oil', or possibly 'vegetable shortening'. In most instances if you see those words, palm oil is the oil behind it. The quick way to tell, is by the saturated fat content. Palm oil and coconut oil are the only vegetable oils with significant levels of saturated fat, so if a label states vegetable oil (and no animal fats), and then has a saturated fat content of about half the fat content it probably contains palm oil (it may be coconut, but that is unlikely is coconut oil is quite expensive, and also has a distinct coconut-ty taste).

In non-food products (mainly cosmetics and cleaning products), while palm oil itself is often used 'as is' it is also used in the manufacture of many other chemicals and raw materials used in these products. The Palm Oil Investigations team have over 200 ingredients listed on their website that are either synonyms for palm oil, or are likely to contain palm oil in some form.

I am the first to admit eliminating palm oil is a challenge. I have primarily focused on food products, as that's where I felt I could make the most difference with my purchasing power. And also, the lack of palm oil free (or CSPO) cosmetics and cleaning products has really hampered my progress in that area, although I am now seeing some good options slowly coming forward.

Also worth noting, palm sugar, as often used in south east Asian cuisine, does not come from the oil palm, so it is safe!

If you'd like to do more, there are a number of charities that are doing great work for the plight of the orangutans. Orangutan Appeal UK is one I donate to regularly, as it is linked to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, The Orangutan Project is a great Australian-based organisation, and obviously, you can donate to the Centre for Orangutan Protection directly.

Wish me luck for my morning tea, fingers crossed we raise a solid amount for the Centre for Oranguatan Protection.