Palm Oil Allergy


Palm oil is derived from the palm kernel and it is a highly saturated. Considered healthy by many people, palm oil is liberally used in many cosmetic products. Palm oil is often also used in a lot of food products. Though it has been primarily used in soaps and moisturizers, palm oil has been increasingly used to replace coconut oil in many food products.

Since palm oil and coconut oil are both obtained from kernels, it is difficult to distinguish them from taste. Also, in the recent years, the use of palm oil has increased manifold, therefore increasing the incidence of palm oil allergy.

Does Palm Oil really causes Allergy

The primary reason for all food allergies is due to its protein content. Palm oil generally have very low level of protein due to which allergic reactions might be bit rare. Extensive clinical studies have not been done in this regard however coconut which is product of palm tree(though of different species) have proven allergic reactions. However unrefined palm oil might not fall in this and some people might be allergic to it.

Symptoms of Palm Oil Allergy

The primary symptoms of this allergy vary from one person to another. If palm oil causes an allergic reaction, it can come in the form of either contact dermatitis or food allergies. Contact dermatitis symptoms include itchy rash, hives, inflammation of the skin, itchy eyes and blisters. If the allergic reaction has been caused due to ingestion of the palm oil, it would cause sinus congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing, coughing, swelling in the mouth and the face and several other reactions. In a severe condition, a person may suffer from an anaphylactic shock which might be fatal. Most common symptoms which is most common to all types of food allergies are allergic rhinitis and asthma and it is true with this too.

Prevention of Palm Oil Allergy

Since this allergy can be life threatening, it is important to keep a close watch to any kind of symptoms. The symptoms of palm oil allergy are usually sudden and can cause severe problems, so observing them closely is very important. Try and see an allergist as soon as you can. If the symptoms of your allergy are not very severe, remember them so that if you suffer from them again, you know that you have been exposed to palm oil. Since palm oil is usually used in soaps and detergents, read the labels carefully to ensure what you are using does not have palm oil in it. Most people with palm oil allergy are able to consume some amounts of the oil without having any severe side effects or allergies. However, it is important to determine how much of palm oil you can safely consume without causing severe reactions. Usually, palm oil which is refined enough and has been heated to a degree can have the allergen safely removed. Such oil poses no threat to you.

A person who suffer from multiple allergies should always carry a Epi-pen in case you require it at unexpected times.

Uses of Palm Oil

Palm oil is commonly used for making soaps. Sometimes, palm oil is also used in making fancy candles, but in the recent years, it has been also used to manufacture food products as well. Palm oil is used to make flavored mayonnaise, margarine and processed foods. Palm oil is also used for cooking oil instead of coconut oil. The oil that you get from the palm kernel is red colored and since it has a tropical taste to it, it is used interchangeably with coconut oil. Apart from these, palm oil is used in detergents and is also used in industrial lubricant.

People with nut or cotton seed oil allergies are more likely to develop palm oil allergy as well. Such people should stay away from palm oil as much as possible.



  1. I have a severe and immediate reaction and there is no mistaking that it is palm oil. I react when eating a tried and true food if it changes its recipe ( Gingernuts NZ changed their vege oil to palm oil, although there had been complaints about a taste change we were assured it was the same recipe – one bite did it, fortunately able to spit it out and take antihistamine which mitigated the symptoms such that I could just put up with the breathing issue, got a shock to read the ingredients). I have a massive outpouring of mucus saliva such that I choke and cannot breathe easily and vomit and am unable to speak, can’t see and fall down. It is immediate. I did not have problems in early life because the use of palm oil was not very common, but it seems to be in everything now. I have had to give up Oreo cookies (sold in NZ, although it seems to depend on where they are made). A single bite of a tim tam at work caused such a reaction in the early days that workmates rang an ambulance. Because I have avoided it for so long I can pretty much smell it in many foods. I avoid cake slices in cafes. I have to have ice cream in a tub because cones have palm oil. I have avoided any food that has vegetable oil listed without identification, but a recent hint is that if it has vegetable oil but not saturated fat then it isn’t palm oil but some other like soy or sunflower. Fortunately because of Palm Oil being politically incorrect I have noticed more and more items not using it. Thanks for this site.

  2. Hi Marg,

    I live in the US but originally from India and allergic to Palm Oil as well as artificial preservatives and colors. When I read your post, I know exactly how you feel. Growing up in India I am used to having coconut oil, but never been allergic to it. Palm oil on the other hand causes my histamines to act up while creating my throat to start constricting. Within a couple of days, I have full blow infection of my tonsils and at that point my only cure is a course of antibiotics. Just as you have noticed with Oreo cookies, Snickers bar switched from Soybean oil to Palm oil as well. I did try a Snickers thinking nothing will happen, my allergic reaction came quickly. Unfortunately, the use of Palm oil has been on the rise as it cheap. European chocolate makes had switched a while ago, and now US companies are moving in the same direction. I have a home remedy for my allergies. After eating something that contains Palm oil and / or preservatives, I immediately take a warm salt water gargle. This has stopped my allergies from taking hold. Although, this is not a fool-proof method, it does work most of the time. It is extremely frustrating to know that Palm oil despite being unhealthy is being used for a variety of food products. The main reason for this rise is the removal of trans fat from baked and fried food items. I am very happy that this site was setup.

  3. I recently bought microwave popcorn at our local health food grocery. I made it, sat down to enjoy and immediately my tongue felt like it was irritated and then became more like a little burning sensation. I looked at the box of popcorn and saw that palm oil was the primary oil used in the product.
    I then tried a Trader Joe’s pumpkin scone and had a similar reaction. When I looked at the ingredients, sure enough, there was palm oil in the mix. I am sorry to see so many products using palm oil and I wonder how to bring attention to the merchants who seem to think this is the newest and best oil to use. It is NOT. In fact, any oil that is not organic seems to bear the question of what was used on the safflowers, olives, soy, etc. in its early development. Anyone been able to bring attention to the increasing use of palm oil in our food products? IF so, how?

  4. Finally I think I have discovered what gives me hives, bright red cheeks, breathlessness and an increased pulse rate – Palm oil !!
    This explaines why I have never been able to isolate the food stuff that causes this reaction. For months I would be ok, then suddenly all the above symptoms would return.
    Today I ate white chocolate left over from xmas, within an hour I had a reaction, then I remembered I felt the same a week ago when I had ate the white chocolate. Today I had not eaten anything else.
    Following googling white chocolate, palm oil and the amount of convenience food which contain Palm oil I am completely convinced this is the culprit !!!
    I’m so happy and from now on will be examing packet or tin of food I buy !!!

  5. Lyn Lawrence on January 23rd, U.K.

    I identified Palm oil as an allergen many years ago. (I think that it has been in food products for as long as 20 years).I get disfiguring red. itchy lumps on my face and upper body. I make almost all my own food. Although I buy no food products containing it, there are times when I’ve eaten out when I know that the food must have contained palm oil. I avoid tree-nuts now too, because they too have the same effect, although to a lesser degree.
    I am failing to find anyone to test me for this, largely, i feel. because Palm oil is not considered to be an allergen. It is in almost all processed food.—Bread, Stock cubes, Mayonnaise, Virtually all biscuits and Sweets, Try looking at the foods in your supermarket.!

  6. Hi I’m happy to find that there are some other people who is allergic to palm oil as can’t convince anyone that the food I’m troubled with is palm oil:) I get non-stop headache for three days with a single bite from a shop bought cookie. What’s worse is most gluten-free products made with Palm oil:(

    • Palm oil reacts with my stomach acids as a small allergy THEN creating pain via gas reaction which pushes on my lungs and kicks my asthma off right away.

      Like you Denise I struggle, most allergen free foods have another and my list of allergens are exhaustive and thus prepackaged foods are mainly expensive, I worked out a minimum £20 a day just to eat prepackaged all-allergen free foods.

      I had to really get back to taking time to cook food to erase all allergens except nuts (the only one I don’t react to?) and I’ve lost 3 stone in 2 years by removing all these allergens by cooking most my meals from start & my asthma no longer has me bedridden most of the time.

      Does anyone know where I can buy red palm oil in the U.K. ?

      I assume it is processed Palm Oil as I didn’t even know red palm existed until I read this haha!

    • I get the 3 day headache as well…It’s in almost everything!!! I take 2 benadryl immediately upon suspicion of consumption and while it makes me sleepy, it usually lessons it or makes it go away completely. Hope this helps someone else as this is the only thing I have found to be effective.

  7. We think Palm oil causes ours sons Skin Rash and Asthma, The doctors said its not but every time he eats food with palm oil in he comes up in a red itchy rash and blotches, face, tongue, it last a few days, We have been looking at all foods and noticed that palm oil is in loads of foods, we are now going back to basic food and good old fashioned butter.

    • I have similar reactions when exposed to palm oil and I too had doctors telling me it wasn’t the palm oil, even though I was diagnosed with palm allergy. I switched back to butter and it has really helped. Also, watch the soaps and shampoos. Most of them have palm derivatives in them .

  8. My wife developed food allergies late in life (including tree nuts and “birch” allergies, ie., pit fruits, strawberries) and…you guessed it… PALM OIL. This took a while to figure out. A few bites of a baked good or other food with palm oil causes itchy mouth/throat and, in her case, a drop in blood pressure which in one case led to a fainting spell (after having a bite of a brownie made by a friend! She used margarine as the fat, and most margarines now are made with palm oil.)

    As others have pointed out, as the least expensive recourse after the banishment of transfats during the past few years, palm oil is everywhere. It has become very difficult to avoid when eating any kind of processed or baked food, ice cream, baking mixes, etc. etc. etc. Virtually all baked goods have palm oil or perhaps margarine made with it. One day my wife had grilled chicken at a restaurant and got sick; turns out the oil in the marinade was palm oil!

    Agree, back to making all our own food and good old butter! There are also some margarines still made with soybean oil.

  9. palm oil has many different names. magnesium stearate comes to mind because it is in all vitamin pills and or powdered capsules. it is for the machinery so the powder does not stick to the equipment.

  10. I have been diagnosed with palm allergy. I originally thought that was allergy to palm tree pollen since I live around so many. I have always had issues with increased mucus and occasional choking when eating but it wasn’t until I saw palm oil on the side of margarine tub that I had been using that I made the connection. I have since stopped eating foods that have palm oil and have been feeling much better. I also had dealt with sores on my scalp and hives with small bumps on my skin for years. The doctors never seemed concerned and acting like it was normal. I switched to soaps and shampoos that don’t contain palm and the scalp and skin issues cleared up. Hopefully word will get out to more people that are suffering and don’t know why.

  11. I finally googled “palm oil allergy” and found this website. My reaction to palm oil is a weird one — I feel like I want to jump out of my skin, and can’t sleep. Kind of a buzzed feeling. I had suspected palm oil as being a problem for a while and had avoided it, but the other day I was in a hurry and missed it when reading the ingredient list for a box of cookies. Have now hardly slept for 3 nights, and wonder how long it will take this to get out of my system (yawn…!). I also have a number of other food sensitivities (including coconut oil), so it is becoming more and more difficult to find store-bought foods I can eat, especially with the rise in palm-oil use. Back to making cookies from scratch, I guess . Hey, they taste better anyway! But it is time-consuming, and difficult to find the time, since I already cook meals from scratch.

  12. My wife has a Palm oil intolerance which causes her to ingest air to the point of being full of trapped wind/gas and does nothing for her twitchy legs. (10 years or more of this)
    What we know about Palm oil. 1) Learn to speed read labels, avoid mono and DI-glycerides of fatty acids (unless the state what they are derived from. 2) Almost every manufactured product pastry, bread cakes, biscuits, yogurts, stock cubes, pizzas, pies, savory biscuits and more contain it, 3) Fresh fruit (citrus in particular) are coated in wax which contains palm oil. 4) If its cheap food it will probably have palm oil in it. 5) Avoid Sterates and obviously Palmates 6) Learn to cook you have to to avoid it. 7) Don’t buy or use pre-pared ingredients, pastrys, sauces ketchups, relishes, stock cubes as above.

  13. Kathy E Barker on

    Kathy, Indiana
    My reaction to palm oil is individual red fluid filled blisters They can be very itchy. I’ve been allergic to papaya since 1985. This was facial swelling with eyes swollen shut. Next I developed a gluten allergy which appeared over New Years Holiday 2000. As soon as I could get to my dermatologist she diagnosed me with Dermatits Herpetiform. She sent three full thickness lesions for biopsy. The lesions looked like marbles under my skin with fluid filled blisters on top. They covered my arms and legs symmetrically and nothing relieved the itching. They have left some scars. She treated me with steroids and Dapsone for 9 months. I’ve eaten gluten free x17 yrs. I have since tested positive for Celiac and so has my granddaughter. I am allergic to vinyl, coconut, fresh tomatoes,and many weeds and pine products. If any of my history could help someone else I would be glad to share more.

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