The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases

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Rainforest cleared for palm oil planting in Indonesia Credit

Large-scale industries do not operate in isolation, but have tangible impacts on human and planetary health. An often overlooked actor in the fight against noncommunicable diseases is the palm oil industry, reports a new article in  the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.  The dominance of palm oil in the food processing industry makes it the world’s most widely produced vegetable oil. The authors applied the commercial determinants of health framework to analyze the palm oil industry. They highlight the industry’s mutually profitable relationship with the processed food industry and its impact on human and planetary health, including detrimental cultivation practices that are linked to respiratory illnesses, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and pollution. This analysis illustrates many parallels to the contested nature of practices adopted by the alcohol and tobacco industries. The article concludes with suggested actions for researchers, policy-makers and the global health community to address and mitigate the negative impacts of the palm oil industry on human and planetary health.

Citation: Kadandale S, Marten R, Smith R. The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases. Bulletin of the World Health Organization.2019;97(2):118.

Other recent reports on the palm oil industry:

Lustgarten A. Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. New York Times Sunday Magazine Nov. 25, 2018, p. 42.

Rainforest Action Network. Profits Over People and Planet Not ‘Performance With Purpose’ Exposing Pepsico’s Real Agenda, 2017.

Tullis P. How the world got hooked on palm oil. The Guardian, February 19, 2019.