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Engaging with Controversies in the Food System: Palm Oil

Become more confident in making informed decisions about the food you eat by exploring the controversy surrounding palm oil.

A glass bottle of oil surrounded by palm fruit laid out on a palm leaf

Engaging with Controversies in the Food System: Palm Oil

  • 2 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

The CPD Certification Service

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. Find out more.

Learn how to assess the reliability of different sources of food information

Please note this course runs without facilitation

Consumers have never been confronted with so much food choice. Making a decision on what food to eat is affected by many factors, including media reports, diet research findings, and social media.

On this course, you’ll access leading research and expert insights to make sense of one of the most common food controversies - palm oil.

You’ll explore viewpoints of stakeholders and reflect on your own food preferences. By improving your knowledge of these food debates, you’ll build the confidence to make more informed decisions about food.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds What do lipstick, pizza dough, ice cream, soap, chocolate, margarine, shampoo and hundreds of other domestic and packaged products have in common? They all contain palm oil. Palm oil is in fact the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. The rapid global expansion of palm oil production has led to deforestation and the destruction of peat lands. Palm oil production also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, human rights violations, and to the loss of biodiversity on some of the planet’s most highly endangered habitats and species, including the already critically endangered orangutan. Even as the environmental case against it grows stronger, the palm oil business is booming as never before, and virtually all consumers face a sustained catch-22 dilemma.


  • Week 1

    The controversy

    • Welcome to the course

      We start by introducing the course and the team of educators.

    • What is a controversy in the food system?

      The idea of a ‘controversy’ is central to this course but how does it relate to the food system? You'll explore the term in more detail in this activity.

    • Exploring controversies

      Gain helpful tips that will help you evaluate sources of information about food to determine their reliability, making you more confident in your choices.

    • Introducing palm oil

      Palm oil has been capturing headlines across the globe. What is it and why is it such a big issue?

    • Palm oil and its benefits

      Explore more about palm oil - where it comes from and why it is so ubiquitous as an ingredient in foods and other domestic products.

    • Analyse & reflect

      In this section, you'll take a moment to reflect on what you've learned so far and share your ideas with others on the course.

  • Week 2

    The stakeholders

    • Welcome to part 2

      Find out what you'll be learning in the second part of this course and be introduced to some of the stakeholders that have different perspectives on the environment, social and economic issues.

    • Stakeholder perspectives - part 1

      A look at the palm oil controversy from a range of stakeholders' perspectives: a government, a lobbying organisation, and a regulator.

    • Stakeholder's perspective - part 2

      A look at the palm oil controversy from a range of stakeholders' perspectives: an action organisation, a conservationist, a researcher, and a food company.

    • Final test

      Apply your learning and understanding of the course materials in a short mutiple-choice test.

    • Analyse and reflect

      In this final section, you'll apply what you've learned by taking part in the course test and summarising your thoughts on the topics and themes discussed to take beyond this course.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors to complement the CPD policies of professional and academic bodies.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the stakeholders and reflect on the complexity of the food supply chains
  • Explore the policies of national governments and the EU and minimise the food supply chains disruptions
  • Discuss the control measures in place to ensure the integrity of our food supply chains
  • Describe the innovations that are helping stakeholders of the agri-food supply chains cope with increased demand
  • Assess the consequences of a crisis on the integrity of the food supply chains
  • Summarise your own personal contribution to the problem and explore how you could contribute to the solution.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone curious about what their food contains, and what this means for their health and the environment. Professionals in the food and environment sectors will find this course useful for providing an up to date analysis of topical debates. Teachers may also find this course a useful resource for their students studying food science subjects.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on this topic, you might also find of interest the following EIT Food courses on food, nutrition and science communication:

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor in International Rural Development. I trained as a social anthropologist. My research centres around understanding systemic change in agrarian environments.

I am an Associate Lecturer in Economics. My research explores the impact of non-tariff measures (NTMs) and their essential role in promoting sustainable global trade practices.

Who developed the course?

EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$54/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 6 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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