Palm Oil Under Fire Over Cancer, Deforestation
Palm oil has been severely criticized for destroying millions of acres of rainforests and biodiversity. Now, the government of Singapore says palm oil kills people, too.
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board is spending millions of dollars a year in subsidies to promote the use of healthier cooking oil, Xinhua news agency reports quoting Straits Times. Starting this month, the board will absorb the difference in cost between palm oil, which is generally used by food outlets, and a healthier mix of palm and canola oil that costs 20 percent to 30 percent more. The aim is to get 20 percent of food outlets to switch from palm oil to the canola mix by 2020. The board will be subsidizing wholesale oil suppliers to get them to sell the healthier mix to restaurants, hawker stalls and other food outlets at the same price as palm oil. Palm oil is the cheapest cooking oil and costs around 6 to 8 Singapore dollars (US$4.8 to US$6.4) for a two-liter bottle in retail shops.
However, it has 50 percent saturated fat, which is believed to clog up arteries and increase risks of heart attacks and stroke. The canola and palm oil mix reduces the fat saturation to 38 percent. Now, It’s Linked To Cancer.
One of the oil suppliers involved in the scheme said that some food outlets will go for the healthier oil if it does not cost them more, but others may resist over fears it could affect the standard or taste of their food.
Experts are divided, too, on how effective the scheme will be, the Straits Times said. Some cardiologists said that even with the saturation at 38 percent, deep-fried foods are still bad for health although a nutrition scientist said there will be benefits on a national level.
“A slight decrease in the percentage of saturated fats in cooking oil would probably not have a substantial effect on the overall healthiness of the dish,” said Chin Chee Tang, a doctor at the National Heart Centre. “More relevant would be the food that is being cooked in the oil, as well as the amount of salt and sugar used.”
Deforestation has caused about 20 percent of the rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The rise in greenhouse gases, both human caused and natural, is contributing to unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which contributes to climate change, extreme weather and threats to life as we know it.
Deforestation also cripples our planet’s capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere, while contributing to the loss of endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants and many others. palm oil, soy beans and cattle production are driving the majority of deforestation.