Palm oil, pros and cons

The Italian association of confectionery and pasta industries is in favour of the most used vegetable oil worldwide, stressing the advantages of its use in the food industry. But there are still some issues which need to be resolved
Palm oil, pros and cons

The spotlight is once again on palm oil, which for months has been the focus of a heated debate between supporters and critics about its wide use, not only in industries such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and bioenergy, but also in many foods which arrive on our tables, primarily confectionery products. The main reasons for controversy are its nutritional properties and the sustainability of its farming.

Aidepi, the Italian association of confectionery and pasta industries, has in fact recently taken a stand by launching a campaign to support the use of palm oil in food. Among the advantages of this saturated fat, derived from the fruit of the oil palm, is the fact that it increases product shelf life, it adds crunchiness and creaminess, contains no trans fatty acids, is odorless and has a neutral flavour, as well as offering excellent value for money. In terms of health, Aidepi points out that palm oil does not contain cholesterol, has significant presence of saturated fatty acids (47%) and also the “protective” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (51%) and there is currently no scientific evidence that it is responsible for an increased risk of cardiovascular problems or cancer.
Scientific literature since the 1970s that had demonized saturated fatty acids as a whole are now beginning to review their positions. The National Order of Biologists, for example, points out that the health risks are derived from an unbalanced diet, and not from the consumption of palm oil.
The question, however, is not yet closed and the scope of the phenomenon is far from irrelevant, since palm oil was the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, according to data from USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in 2014. Palm oil and palm kernel oil accounted for 60 of the 173 million tons of vegetable oils produced worldwide in 2014. In Italy, according to the Coeweb Istat data, between October 2013 and September 2014 about 1.66 million tons of palm oil that were imported, accounting for 2% of world production; about 350,000 tons, or 21% of total Italian imports, were for the food sector.
While awaiting certain and unanimous data on the health risks, a firm stand on protecting the environment is essential. And to this end, an increase of certified sustainable procurement by Italian companies would definitely be a great step forward.

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