Crude palm oil from the mesocarp of Elaeis guineensis Jacq fruits is one of the most consumed vegetable oil in the world. The quality of palm oil assessed mainly by its free fatty acids (FFA) content and impurities, varies between the artisanal and industrial extraction and supply systems. The objective of this paper is to highlight the main parameters that influence the acidity or FFA content of crude palm oil produced by the smallholder artisanal sector. Three parameters examined are: crude palm oil production and extraction methods, microbial activity and oil palm genotype. These three parameters strongly increase lipase activity and hence palm oil acidity. In addition to endogenous lipase in fruit mesocarp, microorganisms found in palm oil are also involved in lipase activity e.g. Aspergillus sp, Mucor sp, Penicillium and Candida for fungi; and bacteria such as Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Micrococcus, Staphylococcus and Enterobacter. To improve the quality of palm oil, smallholders must first seek oil palm progenies with low acidity oil and respect the standard cultural practices for palm oil production.
Key words: Elaeis guineensis Jacq, palm oil acidity, microorganisms, production systems, genotype.
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