You may be surprised to learn there are thousands of products that contain palm oil. If you don’t see “palm” on an ingredient label, it may still contain it.
Know that unless you are being very diligent about reading labels, there’s a high probability there is palm oil in products you have right now. This includes packaged foods, self-care products, cosmetics, and laundry and cleaning products.
This site focuses on products that don’t contain any palm oil. However, it’s easier to avoid it when you know the products that contain it. In this way, you’ll know what to look for.
Print out this list of names for palm oil.
So, which types of products contain palm oil?
Palm oil products
Here are some examples of palm oil products in these categories: Foods, Drinks, Self-Care, Cleaning, and Other.
Foods that contain palm oil
- Baked goods: Pre-made at the grocery store
- Cakes, cupcakes
- Cookies, including refrigerated dough
- Pies, tarts
- Snack cakes
- Also in items you use at home: Canned frosting, shortening, cake mixes, food dye, whipped cream, sprinkles
- Bread, rolls, including refrigerated dough
- Chewy, including taffy, red whips
- In pieces – Magnesium stearate, a palm oil derivative, keeps them from sticking to the machines
- Chocolate and chocolate-flavored
- Cereal: With Vitamin A of 10% or greater, it likely has Vitamin A Palmitate
- Cooking spray, grilling spray: If it doesn’t list palm oil, watch for Mono- and Diglycerides
- Fast food
- Food coloring: Watch for propylene glycol, glycerin, Polysorbate 80
- Fried onions in cans
- Granola bars, snack, nutrition and protein bars
- Ice cream, ice cream novelties: Most all soft serve ice cream contains Mono- & Diglycerides
- Instant noodles
- Mac & cheese cups and boxes: Watch for Medium Chain Triglycerides or Glycerol Monostearate
- Margarine, buttery spreads
- Microwave popcorn
- Nut butters
- Pie crust
- Pizza, including frozen pizza and refrigerated dough
- Potato crisps
- Refrigerated dough: Cookies, biscuits, rolls, pizza, etc.
- Salad dressing
- Shoestring potatoes in cans
- Spices, seasoning packs, mixes, extracts
- Vegan products
- Vitamins: Chewable, liquid, tablets, pills, gummy
- Many more
Drinks that contain palm oil
Be sure to choose drinks with the least amount of ingredients.
- Drink mixes
- Flavored drinks, coffees
- Milk, including nut, soy, etc.: Unless it’s whole milk, it likely contains Vitamin A Palmitate
- Sports drinks
Self-care products with palm oil
- Bar soap
- Cosmetics: Mascara, lipstick, powders, foundation, nail polish, lip balm, etc.
- Deodorant: Spray, solid, cream
- Liquid soap
- Lotion and moisturizer
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Shaving cream, gel
- Sunscreen: Spray, lotion, stick, cream
Cleaners that contain palm oil
Detergents and cleaners — in liquids, tablets, powders and sprays — typically contain palm oil. Even plant-derived and eco-friendly ones have it. This is where it’s essential to know names for derivatives because you won’t see “palm oil” listed in the ingredients.
- All-purpose spray
- Bathroom cleaner
- Dish soap
- Dishwasher detergent
- Disposable sweeper pads
- Floor cleaner
- Furniture polish
- Laundry detergent
- Shower/tub sprays
- Toilet cleaners
- Window cleaner
- Cough drops, throat lozenges
- E-juice, e-liquid, vape juice
- Medicine: In gel cap, tablet, pills, liquid
- Vitamins: In liquid, gel, gummy, tablet
What products contain it
According to Rainforest-Rescue.org, palm oil in foods is the greatest worldwide demand, taking 71% of the market for palm oil. Consumer products account for 24% total palm oil use. Energy accounts for 5% of global demand.
Palm oil is common in items you may not expect. You can learn more by reading labels. You will may notice Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil are common.
Lots of different names for it
Other times, you may see Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Red Palm Oil, or Organic Palm Oil. If you are interested in avoiding palm oil products, it’s important to not buy items with these palm ingredients.
Once you start reading labels, you will become more familiar about the types of products that contain palm oil. In so doing, you may have questions about other ingredients that seem similar.
The scientific name for the palm oil that companies use in products is Elaeis guineensis. This type of palm oil comes from the oil palm tree.
The oil palm tree is not the same type of palm as coconut. Also, Caranuba wax is different. They are all “from palm trees” but there are many different types of palms.
Why is palm oil in everything
There are many reasons why palm oil is in everything.
One reason is because palm oil is inexpensive. It’s a productive crop in that farmers can grow more palm oil per hectare than other oils. Especially in Sumatra and Borneo, developers are clearing rainforests to make way for more palm oil plantations. This seriously threatens native species.
Another reason palm oil is in everything is because it’s a versatile vegetable oil. It works in many ways in many different types of foods.
It has a high melting point and can remain semi-solid at room temperature. This makes it work equally well in creamy products — in everything from food spreads, dressings, lotions, shampoo and frosting — as well as in products that need to be more solid — like bar soaps, lip balm, shortening, and deodorant sticks.
In addition, companies also use it to increase the shelf life of products. It works as a preservative in food and non-food items.
Crunchy or chewy
This versatile oil can help foods keep their crunch. Used other ways, palm oil enables processed foods to be chewy.
It works very well to enhance the mouthfeel of products. This is why common palm oil products include dough, ice cream, margarine, spreads, creams, fillings, shortening, canned frosting, etc.
Who uses it?
Manufacturers put palm oil in everything from soap to laundry detergent, dish soap, to processed foods including baked goods, instant noodles, granola bars, candy, and more.
Palm oil works well to replace trans-fats that were once so common in foods.
Since the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans-fats in foods in the United States, companies needed to find replacements. Because palm oil works in so many ways, companies changed recipes and started adding it to their foods.
Items containing it
If you are trying to avoid products that use palm oil, start by reading labels. Don’t buy products with any palm- ingredients. After that, learn the other names for palm oil derivatives in common, everyday items.
Pick a product and find a palm oil free option. Sometimes all the options in a category contain palm oil. You may have to do without or make your own.
After you find a product without it, continue to be brand-loyal as long as it remains palm oil free.
After that, choose another product without it. This website has examples of palm oil free products in many categories, including soaps, deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, candy, cereal, etc. We have a very popular post which lists all of them together.
You may be surprised at what types of items at the store contain palm oil. If you want to avoid palm oil products because of environmental concerns and the controversy surrounding sustainable palm oil, this website is a good place to start.
We started this website because our son gets very sick from palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Many people choose either sustainable palm oil or ones without it at all. There’s a lot you can do if you are trying to avoid it.
What can I do?
You can start by taking some easy first steps such as buying more fresh fruits and vegetables. After that, you can try to cook from scratch more. Then, you can learn some recipes and bake from scratch — without using shortening — instead of buying pre-made desserts from the grocery store.
You can use less self-care items overall. After you get in that habit and need to buy replacements for the items you use frequently, you can substitute palm oil free options.
Making simple switches at home is a great place to start. Use baking soda, vinegar, or lemon for cleaning.
Read labels so you can find the products that use palm oil and choose the ones that don’t. Remember, there hundreds of names for palm oil, and there are dozens of ways companies use it because it’s so versatile. It’s also inexpensive.
Because there are so many derivative names, there are thousands of products that contain palm oil.