What’s the deal with Palm Oil?

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Anyone who watches me do my thing at the markets would know I use this strange orange-coloured oil in my cooking. In case you’re wondering, it is palm fruit oil supplied by Carotino, a Malaysian-owned company.

Jackie M at Orange Grove Farmers' Market; photo courtesy of Elizabeth Taylor.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Taylor.

There’s a lot of debate about palm oil production and also the use of palm oil in cooking, and a quick google search will get you up to speed on it.

So, is my association with Carotino going to stir up a hornet’s nest like Pete Evans’ endorsement of the Paleo Diet? Has Jackie M sold out to Big (cooking) Oil?

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I’m not here expecting to change any environmental activist’s mind, but I feel it necessary to answer some questions here with what I know about Carotino’s palm oil production.

1) What about the Orang Utans?
You’re confusing Peninsular Malaysia (where Carotino’s cooking oil comes from) with Indonesia. Orang Utans don’t exist in the Malaysian peninsula. It’s okay, people similarly confuse my food with Indonesian or Thai food all the time.

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Baby Noah pretending to be an orang utan.

2) What about deforestation?
Yes, it’s a problem the Malaysian government has committed to tackling. However, as far as Carotino is concerned, its Pahang plantation was established on pre-existing cleared land from Malaysia’s colonial days.

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3) What about environmental sustainability?
Carotino is RSPO-certified for its sustainable agricultural practices. It is one of a small but growing number of palm oil producers who actively embrace a responsible environmental philosophy. More about Carotino’s environmental vision can be found here – http://carotino.com.au/eco_friendly_oil_palm.php

Entrance to Carotino Plantation

Entrance to Carotino Plantation

4) Isn’t eating palm oil bad for your health?
You’re confusing palm kernel oil with palm fruit oil. The latter is what forms the basis of Carotino cooking oil, and it contains healthy properties (pro-Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Omega-3 and Omega-6, Lycopene and Co-enzyme Q10) and is comparable to the benefits from coconut oil that you hear so much about nowadays.

Carotino cooking oil with Mee Goreng

5) What about alternatives to palm oil?
Quoting from The Guardian’s feature on The Palm Oil Debate – http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/ng-interactive/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-rainforest-cupboard-interactive >>

“As vegetable oils go, even Greenpeace accepts that palm oil is the “best solution”. But only when produced responsibly.

“It is fundamentally one of the most efficient vegetable oils in terms of land use,” says spokesperson, Richard George.”

So, there you have it. I’d like to hear your solution to the “palm oil problem” if you’re against its use; in the meantime, I will continue to use Carotino cooking oil in my business.

Next up – my visit to Carotino’s Pahang Plantation.

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