Measure, Validate, and Quantify Important Characteristics
Tests for fats and oils are essential for products spanning multiple industries — from animal feeds, soap production, cooking products, and beyond.
For example, food producers need tests for fats and oils in order to fully disclose information about their contents, quality, and purity to their customers. Also, cooking oils and fats come in a huge variety of flavors, types, and blends. Both foodservice establishments and consumers demand this variety to meet different diets, cuisines, and nutritional requirements.
Conducting tests, and other analysis, regarding fats and oils ensures the safety and quality of all these products. Testing also helps prevent potential spoilage due to rancidity as it can help determine the shelf life of the products. Let’s examine some of the tests available in this area and what they are designed to uncover.
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Various Types of Tests for Fats and Oils
When you work with a professional testing partner, they’ll analyze your samples for a variety of factors and attributes. Rancidity and physical characteristics are the two main types of testing done on fats and oils. Rancidity tests examine the quality and shelf life of a product. This information is essential in ensuring the safe use of the products for consumers.
The first evidence of a spoiled product is often rancidity. This occurs when lipids — commonly identified as fats and oils in food products — are exposed to air, light, moisture, or certain bacterial actions. The primary issue affected by rancidity is shelf life.
Food items must be able to maintain their integrity to meet customer expectations for satisfaction and safety. When a lipid becomes rancid, it results in undesirable taste and odor characteristics which naturally negatively impacts the customer experience.
A rancidity test identifies the level of lipid oxidation in a provided sample and is critical in establishing a product’s shelf life. While establishing the shelf life is a major driver for rancidity testing, the information gathered from these tests can extend to other areas as well. Differences in the product type, fat levels, ingredients/product composition, and even packaging can impact testing results. Therefore, these must all be factored into selecting the right test and when evaluating the findings.
Here’s a look at four of the rancidity tests typically used for fats and oils.
Unsaponifiables are components of a fatty substance (oil, fat, wax) that fail to form soaps when treated with alkali and remain insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. For instance, typical soybean oil contains roughly 1.5 to 2.5% (by weight) of unsaponifiable matter.
Unsaponifiable constituents are an important consideration when selecting oil mixtures for the manufacture of soaps. Unsaponifiables can be beneficial to a soap formula because they may have properties such as moisturization, conditioning, antioxidants, texturing, etc. On the other hand, when the proportion of unsaponifiable matter is too high (a guideline is more than 3%), or the specific unsaponifiable present does not provide significant benefits, a defective or inferior soap product can result.
Total (Free) Fatty Acids
When oil is used to deep fry food items, the oil will degenerate as it’s exposed to high temperatures, oxygen, and moisture generated through the cooking process. This combination leads to chemical changes, including the formation of hydrolysis products such as free fatty acids. Free fatty acids often result in undesirable effects for the oil, including off-flavors, a lower smoke point, and unwanted coloration.
Neutral Oil Loss
Crude oils are refined to remove unwanted minor components that make oils unappealing to consumers. During refining, the goal is to minimize damage to the neutral oil and loss of valuable minor constituents. The components to be removed are all compounds that are detrimental to the flavor, color, stability, and nutritional safety of the refined oil. These compounds are primarily phospholipids, free fatty acids, pigments, volatiles, and contaminants. Testing in this realm measures how much of the more valuable neutral oil is lost through the refining process.
The most widely used option for measuring the state of oxidation in fats and oils, this test measures how much an oil sample has undergone primary oxidation, but not its stability. Any detection of peroxide suggests rancidity in unsaturated fats and oils.
Color testing methods are used to conduct tests for fats and oils as visual elements can also indicate details about the substance’s stability and oxidation state, or potential for rancidity.
Barrow-Agee Laboratories will use both the Hunter Lab and Gardner color tests for sample comparisons. Hunter Lab allows a precise definition of the color of a test sample. Color analysis can be used to evaluate color change due to exposure for example. Visual color and spectrophotometer readings can also be affected by surface texture, processing method, and viewing light sources. The Gardner Color Scale is a one-dimensional scale used to measure the shade of the color yellow, which is the common hue for most oils and fats.
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Make Barrow-Agee Your Partner for Tests for Fats and Oils
As a feed and food safety testing lab, Barrow-Agee is committed to helping you ensure the quality of the products you entrust to us. Whatever your sample may be, we will partner with you to identify any unwanted or underperforming elements as well as the positive aspects of your samples.
Our laboratory offers a comprehensive suite of testing for both lipid characteristics and quality. We have American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) chemists on staff and adhere to AOCS testing methods and procedures.
Barrow-Agee Laboratories is a full-service laboratory that you can rely on for all of your testing needs. From microbiology and organic chemistry testing to support for animal feeds and pesticides, our expert team is ready to provide you with the results you need as quickly as possible while providing a timely, professional, and easy experience along the way.