If you use cooking oil, or any food products made with fats/oils of any kind such as salad dressing, crackers, cookies, chips, cake mixes ~ they are in almost all processed food products ~ you could be ingesting a harmful chemical: hexane.

Many  fats and oils are processed with hexane, but don’t worry, food manufacturers assure us that “the hexane residue in your cooking oil won’t hurt you.”  Or will it?  According to studies conducted by Cornucopia Institute and Naturalnews.com, hexane residues have been discovered in processed food products.  This is disturbing news.

What is Hexane?

A highly flammable toxic chemical made from crude oil, hexane is a colorless liquid with a noxious odor that pollutes the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency lists hexane as a hazardous air pollutant and carefully monitors and regulates its release into the environment.  It is used to extract edible oils from seed and vegetable crops.

Hexane Processed Cooking Oils

Manufacturers are not secretive about using hexane in their processing.  The solvent extraction method using hexane, additional chemicals and heat is the most widely used method for oil extraction in the Western world.

The solvent extraction method is considered to be the most efficient process because it leaves behind only 0.5% to 0.7% of residual oil in raw materials such as cottonseed, canola, soybean, sunflower, olives, flax, peanuts, corn and many other oil bearing crops.  However, expeller or hydraulic pressing methods leave 6% to 14% or more residual oil in the raw material.  The problem is the hexane solvent extraction method leaves a poisonous residue in the end product: hexane.

 The Process

While it may be considered “more efficient,” the solvent extraction process is complicated.  Raw material is reduced to an optimum size best suited for proper extraction of the oil.  Each and every oil bearing cell must be brought into contact with the solvent hexane. The entire process consists of treating the prepared raw material with hexane, then miscella refining, neutralization, separation, hexane evaporation, bleaching, and deodorizing; these processes vary depending on the raw material and the machinery used.

In addition to using poisonous chemicals the problem with this process is also high heat.  It degrades the flavor, affects the color, and changes the nutritional value of oils.  This process of refining vegetable oil damages the fats and makes the oils very unstable and prone to going rancid quite easily.  Rancid oils in any form are particularly bad for your health because they introduce cancer causing free radicals into your body.

Residues in our Food Supply

While food manufacturers state that hexane residues remain in food products, they discount the residue as “insignificant.”

Yet, food companies are not required to test their products for hexane residues, including soy-based infant formulas where hexane is used to process some of the ingredients.

No one knows that hexane residues are in food products because no labeling is required. Unless you do your homework on food processing, there is no way to know that hexane is used to process fats/oils.  When was the last time you read up on food processing?  The truth is that hexane processed oils are neither nutritional nor healthful!  This means no matter how diligently you read labels, you could be consuming hexane residues in the food products you purchase.

How Harmful is Hexane?

The harmful effects of hexane include mental confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, paralysis, impaired fertility, depression, and chronic neurological damage, along with the danger of explosions.  Hexane is on the Occupational Safety Hazards Association’s list as a chemical hazard to be avoided and to take precautions against.

Current research focuses on industrial and airborne exposure to hexane.  While it’s clear that people are exposed to hexane in the environment, it’s not clear how much hexane people are ingesting in their foods.  It’s only logical to surmise that the combination of hexane exposure in our environment and ingestion in conventional foods adds up.

What oils to look for?

The best choices are oils with labels that state “unrefined, expeller pressed, stone-crushed, mechanically pressed, and organic.”  Some food product labels state “No Hexane.”  Oils processed with these methods are richer in nutrients, more robust and true to their natural flavors.

Avoid the Hex

Hexane is strictly prohibited in organic food processing.  Look for healthy ingredients.   NextNutrio will help you,  alerting you to all ingredients in food products including fats and oils.

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