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Palm Oil Crisis

Posted Oct 23 2012 8:00pm

Today I have a special guest post from the wonderful Mary Beth Sarnowski! Mary Beth and I go way back…back to a day where Ramen Noodles where the delicacy of choice. Even though it’s been years since our undergrad days at Northern Michigan University, today we come together again. Mary Beth discusses a topic near to her heart and an issue I think needs to be brought to light. Thanks to Mary Beth’s expertise in Primatology she is great person to shed some light on the devastating effects Palm Oil is having on the endangered population of orangutans.

Palm Oil Crisis 
So you feel guilty about eating that pre-packaged food? Be prepared to feel a little guiltier. There is a chance your food choice is killing orangutans. Many pre-packaged foods now contain palm oil, the new cheap form of vegetable oil. Forests containing already endangered orangutans are being cleared to make way for more palm fields so that more palm oil can be harvested.

Photo from
You can help by adopting an Orangutan to help aid organizations that are trying to save the dying population.

I will be the first to admit that while I’m not a palm oil purest, I do my best to remove it from my diet. Not only has my reduction in palm oil consumption aided the orangutans; I have actually lost about 10 pounds since cutting out obvious sources of palm oil. Gone are the days of Cheez-Its and Subway (although Subway is working towards sustainable only palm oil) as go-to meals. I have now become “that girl” standing in the grocery or convenience store aisle scouring the ingredients list (and angrily putting things back on the shelf if they contain palm oil).

One of the biggest problems in reducing your consumption of palm oil is that palm oil is everywhere and often labeled as different things ( ). While some palm oil is harvested sustainably, information on the packaging has yet to catch up with the times so you don’t know if the palm oil used for that particular product was harvested sustainably or not. Companies like Hersey’s are making commitments to use only sustainable palm oil ( ) but you wouldn’t know that standing in the aisle at Target, reading the current packaging. I try to err on the side of caution and not buy any products that contain palm oil unless I know it has been sustainably harvested.

If you want to keep connected to the palm oil crisis, I recommend “liking” the Palm Oil Action Group on Facebook. They post almost daily and are a great reminder to check the ingredients even more closely before you buy.

As a final note, please be sure to check, check, and triple check your holiday candy for palm oil. Halloween should be about zombie blood, not orangutan.

Mary Beth received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Northern Michigan University and her Masters of Research in Primatology from Roehampton in London. She has been working with animals for over 10 years, and has focused on primates for the last six. Mary Beth has worked with animals ranging from parrots to polar bears and just about everything in between. She currently works as a primate behaviorist with captive primates in Austin, TX.

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