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A French Senator has proposed a 300% increase in tax on palm oil to discourage its use in food products after likely being influenced by the NGO campaigns. This is an unfortunate escalation to the continued misinformation being propagated by our opponents on palm oil. Such moves will harm the local business communities which have opted to use palm oil for its superior economic and functional attributes.

The claim to avoid palm oil due to its nutritional attributes is scientifically unjustified. It is important that allegations or claims made on palm oil as a high  saturated fat be assessed in relation to the total fats consumption of the French population. The majority of saturated fats consumption in France comes from meat sources, milk, cheese and butter but not from palm oil. The French consume about 101kgs of meat per person per year with an average of 15kgs of saturated fat content. Milk consumption per person is 92.2 liters containing 4kgs of milk fats which belong to the saturated fats category. Cheese has 30% animal fat content and the French are well known to consume 24kgs of cheese per capita, which provides 7 kgs of saturated animal fats. Butter consumption is 7.3kgs per capita which is 82 %  or 6 kgs of saturated animal fats. If we were to add this up, the total animal saturated fats from milk, meat, cheese, and butter per person per year is 32 kgs. In comparison palm oil consumption per capita in France is only 2kgs.

To reduce the consumption of saturated fats and raise more tax revenue, it would be far better and wiser for the Senator to raise the consumption tax on cheese, milk, meat and butter. Of course it would not be a popular move, but taxing palm oil is also harming an industry which is important to producers in many developing countries in South East Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is scandalous to punish palm oil with a 300% tax when it contributes only 2kgs or 5.9 % of the total saturated fat consumption per capita in France.

If saturated fats are unhealthy, the Senator has to rethink his strategy by reducing the 32 kgs of animal saturated fats which are regularly consumed by an average French person. He is clearly misleading his people by not discussing the core of the health or saturated fats source but instead deflecting the real issue in hand by taxing palm oil. Animal saturated fats are loaded with cholesterol while milk fats also contain the more dangerous trans fats. Fortunately, both these undesirable components are not present in palm oil.

French scientists must be consulted if the Senator is truly keen to promote the health of the French citizens. Dozens of research results have shown that palm oil does not raise cholesterol levels in relation to fats used in the habitual Western diets. In the US, palm oil when blended with soyabean oil has been marketed under the Smart Balance brand carrying the label “patented blend to help improve cholesterol (HDL/LDL) ratio”. It implies that palm oil, although 50% saturated, does not raise cholesterol nor promote the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The science on the nutritional effects of oils and fats consumption has progressed tremendously in the last 5 years. The current negative allegations leveled at palm oil are not supported by scientific results. Extensive research on palm oil nutrition has debunked the negative health perception of palm oil as a saturated fat.

Apart from the Smart Balance claim of improving cholesterol ratio, palm oil helps to replace cholesterol raising trans fats in the USA. Meta-analysis of all types of fats revealed that heart disease risk increased only in population consuming trans fats, while those consuming saturated fats have neutral risk and unsaturated fats consumption lowers heart disease risks. This perhaps explains the French paradox, where heart disease in France is lower even though consumption of saturated fats is higher than in the USA. This implies that replacing palm oil with hydrogenated rapeseed and sunflower seed oil (containing trans-fat) will introduce a higher risk of heart disease amongst the French population and consuming too much of animal saturated fats will also kill inevitably.

The Senator’s proposal  of denying palm oil it’s rightful place in food manufacturing will not only be an economic and functional opportunity loss to industry but also a potential catastrophe to the heart disease risk of the French people, if they resort to using worse alternatives such as hydrogenated (high trans) sunflower or rapeseed oil.  The senator may be excused for his ignorance on palm oil nutrition, but he cannot mislead his country into believing that consuming high amounts of animal fats and trans loaded sunflower or rapeseed oil alternative is  acceptable as consequential replacement of palm oil.

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