Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms. The oil is used in food manufacturing, beauty products, and as biofuel. It is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats and is semisolid at room temperature.
It is a common cooking ingredient in Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is widespread because of its lower cost and the saturation of the refined product when used for frying. Many processed foods either contain palm oil or various ingredients made from it.
The first step in the palm oil production process is harvesting palm fruit. Harvested bunches are transported to factories where they are first sterilized and then threshed using appropriate equipment. Once separated from the bunch, the fruits go through a digester, to then be mechanically pressed in order to extract oil from the pulp.
The pulp of the mature fruit typically contains 56-70% of edible oil. The kernels can be separated out at this stage and pressed independently for extracting palm kernel oil.
Features/Benefits of Palm Oil
- Certain characteristics and the composition of this oil make it an attractive ingredient for the food industry.
- It is widely used in the food industry because of its low production cost.
- This oil is free from trans-fatty acids and therefore healthier for the heart.
- It has a high solid fat content which reduces the need for hydrogenation.
- Less susceptible to becoming rancid, hence longer shelf life.
- It is also used in several other products we use in our daily lives such as soaps, cosmetics, and biofuel.