Dr Kalyana Sundram
I refer to the letter Virgin coconut oil the way to go (see below).
I read with much concern the above mentioned letter and the significant injustice it does to your readers. Mike Gabriel, unfortunately, chose to masquerade as an expert on palm oil and blatantly preaches a whole bunch of wrong facts about palm oil, aimed I suppose, at frightening the wits of the lay consumers. Let me try and set the facts right so that the truth prevails.
The author rightly states that palm oil is refined and the standard industry nomenclature is Refined Bleached and Deodorised (RBD) palm oil and palm olein. Everything else stated by Gabriel is grossly inadequate. Let me highlight these as follows :
1. Claim: Palm oil is manufactured at a high temperature of 400ºC and this strips it of the nutrients leaving it an empty sterile and naked cooking oil.
Truth: During the processing of palm oil, which incidentally meets international HACCP standards, the maximum temperature exposure is during the final stage called deodorisation. At this stage the oil is enclosed in a vessel (deodoriser) under vacuum and controlled pressure with temperatures never exceeding 260-270ºC. The contact time in the deodoriser is also for the shortest time possible so that no damage occurs to the oil.
If 400ºC is used, as suggested, the oil would be unfit for human consumption. Palm oil is processed, just like all other edible oils and fats, to meet international Codex or similar specifications. They all incidentally prescribe GMP for edible oil processing and maximum temperatures in the deodorisation stage never exceeds 270ºC.
2. Claim: Manufacturers add synthetic Vitamin E and colour. All the palm Vitamin E, tocotrienols are destroyed.
Truth: Sale of edible oils and fats in Malaysia is strictly regulated by our Malaysian Food Regulations Act which does not allow the addition of any colouring matter to edible cooking oils. With palm oil, every attempt is made to retain the Vitamin E tocotrienols which are natural antioxidants. The average Vitamin E content in a litre of palm olein bought from our local supermarkets is about 450 ppm.
This is the natural Vitamin E retained in the oil - not added to the oil as claimed. There are many health benefits associated with tocotrienols and we make sure that these antioxidants are retained in the oil. Palm oil/olein is unique in that it has a high content of natural Vitamin E tocotrienols.
Have you seen the red palm olein on your supermarket shelf?. This is a unique product rich in Vitamin E and carotenoids that carry many health benefits.
3. Claim: Palm oil is rancid before we take it home.
Truth: You cannot sell a rancid oil since even the most unsophisticated consumer is able to tell the difference between a good and rancid oil. The truth is that palm oil is highly stable and is the preferred edible oil for cooking and frying. If you attempt to undertake high temperature frying with other oils (including virgin coconut oil) they oxidise rapidly and the food cooked in them develop many off-flavours.
Gabriel advocates the use of virgin coconut oil. This is his personal choice but beware that his claims are not supported by concrete scientific evidence. On the other hand, palm oil has been subjected to more than three decades of vigorous scientific scrutiny on a global scale and its nutritional benefits are well-documented and supported by science (see here for additional information).
Even as this is written, palm oil is increasingly been looked upon as the natural alternative in the USA and Europe to hydrogenated fats containing trans fatty acids. In fact, only last week we published a scientific report that augers well for palm oil for its effects on blood cholesterol, blood sugar and risk for diabetes.
We suggest that the likes of Gabriel should check their facts and not sensationalise issues so as to frighten our consumers. It is hoped that this will help to set the record straight for your readers.
The writer is attached to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.
Virgin coconut oil the way to go
This may surprise your readers but for all these years we have been told lies about coconut oil. The Americans were the first ones as they wanted to sell their RBD soya oil. The anti-coconut oil statements are so strong that people fear the term ' coconut oil' even until today. As one of our greatest leaders, Winston Churchill, has said, ‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on’.
Let’s talk about our palm oil. Please be aware of our typical RBD (it stands for refined, bleached, deodorized) palm oil. All the palm oil manufacturers use a very high temperature of about 400 degrees Celsius to make the oil. In this heat, all the good nutrients are stripped off, thus resulting in a clear oil. It means that the red colour of the palm oil has been destroyed. In reality, it is an empty, sterile, naked cooking oil.
All the manufacturers are totally aware of this. So is the Ministry of Health. The reason they are quiet is that Malaysia is now the world leader in the export of palm oil. This is a very big business for us. Because of this, no bad statements are said about our RBD palm oil. The manufacturers, realising this, add synthetic vitamin E and colour. They then use this in their advertisements.
The sad part is that our palm oil has lost all its tocotrienols (Vitamin E).This is a powerful natural anti-oxident. Due to this, our RBD palm oil is already rancid before one takes it home. The main cause is that the tocotrienols are missing or totally destroyed. It also loses its stability at very high cooking temperature plus all its carotenes (precursors to Vitamin A) that our bodies (if they are functioning properly) use it to convert to Vitamin A.
With all the above, we are faced with a big cooking problem. The only answer at this stage is to use other oils. Again, all other oils are manufactured the RBD way. These include soya, vegetable, natural and others.
The only oil for cooking is produced by the cold press technique. This is virgin coconut oil. In short, it is called VCO. It has all the goodness nutritionally. VCO is often called the ‘healthiest dietary oil’. It is ideal for food as it is not hydrogenated contains no transfats and is very stable with a long shelf life. VCO can stand a cooking heats of up to 190 degrees Celsius. This is only cooking oil that can stand this sort of heat. All other oils fail.
VCO is made by the cold pressed manufacturing method. Coconut oil in general is thick and yellow in colour. This is also known as copra oil. This is manufactured the RBD way. Please note that VCO is water white in colour.