Palm oil is a natural food that has been consumed for more than 5,000 years. Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the oil palm, or Elaeis Guinnesis tree, which originated in West Guinea. While the tree was introduced into other parts of Africa, South East Asia and Latin America during the 15th century, it was first introduced 1870 as an ornamental plant. Large commercial planting and cultivation of the plant in Malaysia did not begin until the mid- 1990's.
Palm oil goes to more than 90 countries around the world. Palm oil and its products will continue to be the most sought-after edible oil in the world market. А unique feature of the oil palm is that it produces two types of oil, palm oil from the flesh of the fruit, and palm kernel oil from the seed or kernel. For every 10 tons of palm oil, about 1 ton of palm kernel oil is also obtained. Several processing operations are used to produce the finished palm oil that meets the users’ requirements. The first step in processing is at the mill, where the crude palm oil is extracted from the fruit. The crude palm oil may be further refined (the second stage of processing) to obtain a wide range of palm products of specified quality. The partly and wholly processed grades require little further treatment before use, thus offering the end-user a saving in processing costs.
Palm oil may also be fractionated, using simple crystallization and separation processes to obtain solid (stearin) and liquid (olein) fractions of various melting characteristics. The different properties of the fractions make them suitable for use in a variety of food and non-food products. Hydrogenation and interesterification may also be used to widen further the applications of palm oil and its fractions.
The most important characteristic of fat used for frying is its ability to withstand the high temperature used, without excessive chemical change. Frying is usually carried out at a temperature of about 180°C. At this temperature, the more unsaturated oils tend to oxidize and either breakdown or polymerize quite rapidly.
Oils containing significant levels of linoelic acid are not recommended for frying, unless they have been hydrogenated to reduce the content of these labile components. It is used domestically, in restaurants, fast food outlets and in large scale preparation of fried potato products and other snack foods in large scale food manufacture.
The manufacturing process of potato chips involves deep frying followed by rapid cooking and blast freezing. Quick crystallization of the fat used is important and for this reason, a slightly hydrogenated palm oil of melting point 40–42°C is preferred.
Palm oil and palm kernel oil are highly suitable components of margarines of the various types because of its higher solids contents.
The following advantages can be listed for palm oil:
Palm kernel oil contains short and medium chain length glycerides similar to those present in butter fat, and therefore helps to give the right mouthfeel and melting characteristics. This effect is particularly marked when it is used in combination with palm oil, because a lower melting eutectic is formed.
Palm oil is used as a minor ingredient in bread manufacturing and in bakery. The addition of about 2% to the dough during mixing keeps the loaf soft. Bread made with shortening that consists of palm oil has a better texture and longer shelf life. Shortening made from palm oil is also preferred over lard, since it is more bland and will not interfere with the taste of the product. Palm oil is used in the manufacture of instant cake mixed because of its vegetable origin and high stability.
The functionality of shortenings to be used in cakes, butter cream fillings, biscuits and pastry is dependent on several factors, such as smooth consistency to facilitate mixing; A fine crystal structure in the solid fat phase. This contributes to smoothness, and is essential in cake making and creaming applications. The small fat crystals enable minute air bubbles to be trapped and retained in the cake batter. These air bubbles then act as nuclei for the finished aerated cake structure. As the batter is cooked, steam is evolved, diffuses into the existing air cells, and enlarges them.
Palm products are used for creams and confectionary products manufacturing because of its high solid fat content and melting point. Palm oil is often used to replace milk fat in dairy products. These products usually have better keeping properties than those containing butterfat, and that is a particular advantage obtained with palm oil. Palm oil is also used in coffee whiteners or coffee creamers which provides white powder for coffee viscosity. Palm oil and palm kernel oil are also used for stable foam manufacturing for ice cream due to its solid fat content (palm oil) and its melting characteristic (palm kernel oil) One more palm oil application — prevent peanut butter separation during storage. Palm stearin of high melting point is widely used at level of 2% for this purpose.
A combination between palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil is used for soaps manufacturing. The typical mixture is 80% of palm oil and 20 % palm kernel or coconut oil. This proportion provides cleaning, solubility and foaming properties required. The main advantages of soaps made from palm oils are the following:
Palm oil and its products are widely used for confectionary fats production, such as cocoa butter equivalent fats (CBE), cocoa butter replacers (CBR) and cocoa butter substitute (CBS). These fats are specially made for chocolates, coatings, fillings and other confectionary products manufacturing. Products based on the above mentioned fats have smooth texture, excellent butter mouth feel, unique flavour and better keeping properties.
Besides above mentioned, palm oil helps to keep hair and skin healthy, provides body with different vitamins, which is essential to good health. And like other vegetable oils, it is cholesterol free. Like other common edible fats and oils, palm oil is easily digested, absorbed and utilized for the support of healthy growth and plays a critical role in providing nutrition worldwide. Results from human studies show that a palm oil-enriched diet does not raise blood cholesterol and even leads to lower plasma cholesterol in some studies.
The industry, besides producing palm oil, also produces by-products usable as animal feed. These are palm kernel cake, palm oil sludge (POS) and palm pressed fibre (PPF). The most useful is palm kernel cake, which is the solid residue left behind after the extraction of oil from the kernels of the palm fruits. It is now well entrenched as a major feed ingredient in beef and dairy feed in the country. The PKC is obtained out from two stages of oil extraction from the palm fruit. The first stage is the primary extraction of palm oil from the pericarp portion of the fruit, which also produces the kernel and by-products POS and PPF. The extraction of oil from crushed kernel then results in the production of PKC as by-product. Two methods are used for the extraction of oil from the crushed kernels. These are the conventional mechanical screw press method that results in the expeller pressed palm kernel cake and the solvent (usually hexane) extraction method that results in the solvent extracted type. The use of palm kernel cake for the fattening of cattle and as a supplement for milk production in dairy cattle.
Although PKC supplies both protein and energy, it is looked upon more as a source of protein. PKC by itself is a medium grade protein feed and with its high fibre content it is often consider as suitable for feeding of ruminants. PKC was ranked a little higher than copra cake but lower than fish meal and groundnut cake especially in its protein value. PKC is a reasonably good economic feed for cattle, both for fattening and supplementary feeding.