What's in our food?

DISCLOSURE: This blog post is sponsored by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. #GoodBadPalmOil

We put food in our mouths everyday, but do we really know what we're eating?  Palm oil is in more than 50% of all the food we buy. It can be found in everyday items like margarines, biscuits, breads, cereals, ice cream, noodles and even shampoo, lipsticks, and detergents.

I first learned about palm oil when I worked as the Media Relations & Development Manager at The Palm Beach Zoo. When we would hold our annual Boo at the Zoo event at Halloween, we asked the vendors to only distribute candy that was made with sustainable palm oil. Why you may ask? Keep reading.

So what exactly is palm oil? It's an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of an oil palm tree. 85% of the world's palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Unfortunately, depending on the land where it's produced, it could be destroying the homes of animals like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.

How? In some regions, oil palm cultivation is causing deforestation. That means the land that was once primarily forest or dedicated to protected species is now taken away and cleared to be converted into palm oil plantations. The impacts of unsustainable production can be devastating on both the environment but also local people. Besides loss of critical habitat for endangered species, it can also lead to soil erosion, soil and water pollution, eviction of forest-dwelling people and social conflict in communities. That's what we call bad palm oil.

But there are some palm oil producers who are committed to adopting more sustainable practices. That's what we call good palm oil. Good palm oil only accounts for 21% of all palm oil consumed around the world. The palm oil trade has also helped increase economic growth and reduce poverty . In Indonesia and Malaysia together, about 4.5 million people earn a living from palm oil.

A not-for-profit organization called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is working to transform the palm oil market to make sustainable palm oil the norm.

They've developed a set of environmental and social criteria which includes not destroying forests or areas where endangered species live. Companies who comply with this criteria will be recognized for producing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

With global production of palm oil expected to double by 2050 to 240 million tons, we should really do our part to ensure we're supporting good palm oil producers.

Thankfully, we - as consumers - can choose whether we buy products made with good or bad palm oil. You can recognize the products made from sustainable palm oil because they carry the RSPO Trademark. Purchasing products with this trademark assures you that the palm oil in the product was produced using sustainable practices that address both social and environmental concerns.

You can download and print a Shopping Guide that gives more information on RSPO-certified products here. You can learn more about good and bad palm oil here. Will you help save the habitats of endangered animals by saying yes to good palm oil?

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Newsy Parents

Passionate parents (mom & dad bloggers) with a nose for fashion (women's petite, children), food & fun (travel). We are former & current television journalists who met in the business, got married and now have two multi-cultural children.