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Fact-finding at the Factory

Fact-finding at the Factory

Often we go through life taking certain things for granted just because it’s something we’ve always been told. This was the case for me with “expeller pressed” oils. I grew up in the natural food industry where certain buzz words played a huge role. Expeller pressed means the oil is forced out by pressure and is truly natural. You'd be surprised by the number of oils that are solvent extracted using chemicals. Not healthy.

olive_oil.jpgIn the early 90’s I took a trip to southern France to visit a grapeseed oil processor. Customers at the retailer I was working for at the time had asked the question, “Is the grapeseed oil expeller pressed or solvent extracted?” Mais oui, bien sûr, our product was expeller pressed — after all this is what our supplier tells us!

The factory turned out to be a wall-less building encircled by a chain fence with ominous red signs featuring deadly graphics and No Smoking artwork. I asked my guide if I could take pictures of the process to use as a teaching tool for my fellow buyers back home. He sternly told me that no photos were allowed due to the explosion hazard if a stray electrical spark happened to ignite the hexane being used to extract the oil.

What?! Hexane? How could this be? After all, we had already assured our customers that our grapeseed oil was unique — it was expeller pressed using sheer force to get every little bit of oil from the durable grapeseed — not solvent extracted.

So, now we find out that not only was our product not expeller pressed, but the solvent used to extract the oil was a dangerous carcinogen. This was a valuable lesson for me: Ask questions, turn over rocks, get all of the details and demand proof from every one of your private-label suppliers. Learn everything about a product and its production process so you’ll be in the best position to educate your employees and customers. This was one factory visit taught me a lesson that’s stuck with me ever since.