Have you ever wondered how margarine is made?
Many people probably know it is made by a process called hydrogenation. But few are aware of the details of what goes on during hydrogenation.
Here is a step-by-step description of the nine-step industrial hydrogenation process used in the making of margarine.
Step 1: Oils are heated until they turn rancid
Margarine makers start with cheap second-grade vegetable oils from corn/maize, soy-beans, sunflower seeds, cotton-seed, safflower seeds and canola/rapeseed.
These oils are then heated under high pressure. The heat turns the oils rancid. Rancid oils are loaded with free radicals that react easily with other molecules, causing cell damage, premature ageing and a host of other problems.
The last bit of oil is removed with hexane, a hydrocarbon with a chemical solvent known to cause cancer. Although this hexane is subsequently removed, traces of it are inevitably left behind.
Unfit for consumption
Moreover, some of the oils used for making margarine are not suitable for human consumption to begin with.
Cotton-seed oil, one of the most popular margarine ingredients, has natural toxins and unrefined cotton-seed oil is used as a pesticide. The toxin, gossypol, is removed during refining. (See also: Gossypol Toxicity in Livestock and Gossypol Poisoning Introduction)
Cotton-seed oil also contains far too much Omega-6 fatty acids in relation to Omega 3. While both Omega 6 and Omega 3 are essential fatty acids, an imbalance between the two is widely believed to cause various health problems, including heart disease.
Most experts on the subject believe that a healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is between 1:1 and 1:2. Cotton seed oil, however, has over 50 percent omega 6 and only trace amounts of Omega 3, giving a ratio of 1: several hundred or more.
As cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, there are also concerns that cotton-seed oil may be highly contaminated with pesticide residues. However, insufficient testing has been done.
Canola oil, which is widely touted as the healthiest oil of all, has problems as well. Consumption of canola has been linked to vitamin E deficiency as well as growth retardation. For this reason, canola oil is not allowed to be used in the manufacture of infant formula.
Most of the oils used for making margarine are also among the Big Four genetically modified crops – soy-beans, corn/maize, rapeseed/Canola and cotton.
Step 2: Steam cleaning destroys vitamins and antioxidants
The raw oils for making margarine are steam cleaned. This destroys all the vitamins and antioxidants. However, the residues of pesticides and solvents, such as hexane, remain.
Step 3: Oils are mixed with finely ground (and toxic) nickel
Then the oils are mixed with finely ground nickel, a highly toxic substance that serves as a catalyst for the chemical reaction during the hydrogenation process. Other catalysts may be used, but these, too, are highly toxic.
Step 4: Hydrogen gas is introduced
The oils are then put under high temperature and pressure in a reactor. Hydrogen gas is introduced. The high temperature and pressure, together with the presence of the nickel catalyst, causes hydrogen atoms to be forced into the oil molecules. If the oil is partially hydrogenated, it turns from liquid into a semi-solid.
Trans-fats are formed during partial hydrogenation. These are fat molecules that have been twisted out of shape. In liquid oils, the molecules are bent, with the hydrogen atoms on opposite sides of each other.
During partial hydrogenation, the molecules are somewhat straightened and now all the hydrogen molecules are on the same side.
If the oil is fully hydrogenated, it turns into a hard solid that cannot be eaten. It no longer contains trans fats because the "out of shape” oil molecules have all been broken up to form straight chains. But this does not mean they have become healthy again because of all the unnatural steps above.
Step 5: Emulsifiers – which are like soaps – are mixed in
What comes out of the partial hydrogenation process is a smelly, lumpy, grey grease. To remove the lumps, emulsifiers – which are like soaps – are mixed in.
Step 6: The oil is steam cleaned (again!) to remove the odour of chemicals
This step is called deodorization and it again involves high temperature and high pressure.
Step 7: Bleaching
The oil is then bleached to get rid of the grey colour to make it more visually appealing.
Step 8: Synthetic vitamins and artificial flavours are mixed in
A ‘natural’ yellow colour called annatto, is added to margarine as synthetic coloring is not allowed! Early last century, no colouring was allowed and margarine was white. This was done to protect consumers against getting butter and margarine mixed up.
The Natural colourant, Annatto (Bixa orellana L.), is derived from the seed of the tropical Annatto tree. It is linked anecdotally to behaviour and learning problems, asthma, hyperactivity, urticaria and allergies.
Step 9: Promotion as a health food
Finally, the margarine is promoted to the public as a health food - with the full endorsement of many scientists, doctors, nutritionists and health authorities.
Eady, Julie. 2007. Additive Alert: Your guide to safer shopping. Additive Alert Pty Ltd, Mullaloo WA 6037. ISBN 0-9775176-1-6.
BUTTER v MARGARINE – The great debate