Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil obtained from the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), and it is most widely consumed in Nigeria. The oil is reddish in colour because of its high content of beta-carotene and it is relatively high in saturated fats and thus semi-solid at room temperature. (Matthaus, 2007).

Palm oil is well known for its excellent dietary energy source, good source of vitamin A and E, stability at high temperature and relatively cheap vegetable oil source. It is an important traditional source of food to the people indigenous to West Africa and other parts of the world. Palm oil quality is generally subjective and depends entirely on the demands of the ultimate consumer. (Badmus, 1990).

In Nigeria, the application of palm oil in food depends on the food habits of the people. Traditionally, the oil is used either for cooking or frying. Palm oil does not contain cholesterol (Corley, 2009). It is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, South Asia and parts of Brazil. Its increasing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its low cost and high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying. The use of palm oil in food products is often the focus of environmental activist groups, due to it being documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment (Kruger et al., 2007). Palm oil has long been recognized in West African countries, and is widely used as cooking oil.

The palm fruit is a drupe, prolate spheroid in shape which varies between 20 to 50mm in length and could be as large as 25mm in diameter, it is found in bunches that are attached to the crown of the tree through a stalk (Purseglove, 1995).

The fruit pulp from where the oil is obtained surrounds a nut, the shell of which another oil, the palm kernel oil is obtained.  Extraction of palm oil from nuts involves field operations and factory or house operations. The field processes include cutting ripe fruit bunches from the palm tree and carrying the fresh fruit bunches and fallen loose fruits to the factory or house by field workers while the factory or house processes involves digestion of the fruit and squeezing palm oil out of the digested fruit pulp (Badmus, 1990).

Locally palm oil is produced by hand, which involves the harvesting of the fruit, cooking the fruit, pounding the fruit mortal and pestle, extracting the oil and  boiling it to let the water evaporate, then processing what is left in order to collect the red colored oil (palm oil).

Since palm oil contains more saturated fats than oil made from canola, corn, linseed, soybeans, safflower and sunflowers, it can withstand extreme deep-frying heat and resists oxidation. (Martin,1988).
This has also contributed to the increase demand of palm oil in West African region. Hence the trade of palm oil termed a lucrative business. (Edem,  2002).
European merchants trading with West Africa occasionally purchased palm oil for use in Europe, but since the oil was of a lower quality than Olive oil, palm oil remained rare outside West Africa (Corley, 2009).
Palm oil became a highly sought after commodity by British traders, for use as an industrial lubricant for machinery during Britain’s industrial evolution, palm oil also formed the basis of soap production, it also constituted the primary export of some West African countries such as  Ghana and Nigeria, although this was overtaken by cocoa in 1880s. (Hartley, 1988).
The trade of red palm oil serves as good and lucrative business for most local women. In most cases, merchants of this oil bought it when it is cheap during its season and store it in different storage conditions such as different containers at varying degree of temperature without considering the oil quality deterioration that usually set in over the period of storage. The oil is later sold when it is offseason, at a time when it is very expensive so that they can make high profit. (Okogeri etal., 2006)
Orji (2006), observed that the acceptability of palm oil in the international market is largely dependent on the physiochemical properties of the oil at the time of purchase. It is against this background that this study was designed to establish the effect of processing method on the physic-chemical properties of palm oil.

Refined vegetable oil of high fluidity has been in higher demand compared to those that congeal at room temperature. Recently dieticians tends to recommend the use of less saturated oils stating that the less saturated oils are more heart friendly. Since palm oil is one of the main oils used in producing refined vegetable oil, it becomes necessary to find ways of processing palm oil that will be of high fluidity and will not congeal at room temperature. This is the motivation of this study.
However from mere observations, palm oil produced by the cold/fermentation process usually congeals at room temperature while the one produced by boiling of the fruits is usually molten (i.e. fluid) at room temperature. Consequently as a first step to tackling the problem of congealation of refined palm oil, the work intends to find how these two methods of production of palm oil affects the physico-chemical characteristics of the oil as well as its stability. At the end of the study, recommendation will be made on how to produce palm oil for various industrial uses such as refined vegetable oil, palm olein, palm stearin, margarine and other oil based products.

The main objective of this study was to determine the effects of palm fruit processing method on the physico-chemical properties of the palm oil.

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