Why we test our shea butter in the lab

After 4 years of work we are proud to have our shea butter quality where we always wanted it. Beige in colour, even in consistency, subtly nutty in scent, pure yet unrefined. And last but not least: organically certified (ecocert). The way to get there was long and not only easy, but we are convinced that it was worth the effort! Yes!

Despite all the care we take in Ghana, we have our shea butter tested for various parameters in a German laboratory. What this means and why we do not shy away from this effort and the costs, I will tell you in a moment. But now first back to Ghana.

The traditional production of shea butter very often takes place in remote areas and brings with it the risk of various contaminations. Therefore, some manufacturers justifiably resort to refined shea butter. In our opinion this is a total pity, as there are top qualities of natural, so-called unrefined shea butter. Contamination in the production of shea butter can be of the following origin:

  • production process
  • production material
  • water
  • shea nuts

That is why strong controls and trustworthy partners are of great importance. Our quality guarantee begins even before production, with the collection and processing of the nuts in protected forest areas according to ecocert standard (organic certification). You can read more about the quality criteria in Ghana under «Production and ingredients».

Even though we know what our shea butter looks, feels and smells like, some impurities may still be present. Therefore we send each batch to a laboratory and test it for the following values:

  • Heavy metals – arsenic, antimony, lead, cadmium and mercury
  • Water activity (aw-value)
  • Acid value (SZ)
  • Peroxide number (POZ)
  • Fatty acid distribution
  • Microbiological examination (A222)

Now you may not be a biochemist, nor are you familiar with such values. That’s okay, we’ll explain why we’re testing. So if you want to dive deep into this topic, you’ve come to the right place.

Heavy metals

Reason for the test: Individual heavy metals are regulated as prohibited substances by the European Cosmetics Regulation. They may only be contained in a cosmetic product in quantities that are harmless to health and technically unavoidable. The BVL published guideline values for maximum levels in 2016.

Water activity

Reason for the test: Water activity is an indicator of the freely available water in a product. According to ISO 29621, values lower than <0.75 are referred to as a so-called low microbiological risk product. Such products are not subject to the same microbiological risk as products containing water such as creams, emulsions etc.

Acid value

Reason for the test: The acid value is a parameter for characterising acidic components in fats and oils. The higher the SZ, the lower the quality of the fat or oil. The level of the SC also gives an indication of possible quality-reducing decomposition processes or pre-treatment of the product.

Peroxide number

Reason for the test: The peroxide number is an indicator of the content of peroxidic functional groups in a fat or oil. It is used to assess the possible spoilage of a fat or oil sample.

Fatty acids

Reason for the test: The fatty acid distribution indicates which fatty acids with which chain length are contained in an oil or fat and in what quantity. Each fat or oil has a characteristic pattern (including natural variations). On the basis of the distribution of the fatty acids it can be judged whether the respective fat or oil is concerned and/or whether further fats/oils are contained.

Microbiological examination

Reason for testing: Cosmetic products must be microbiologically safe. The ISO 17516 standard specifies the maximum contents of total microbial count, yeasts and moulds. It also requires that certain microorganisms (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans) must not be contained.

Evaluation of the results: The test parameters of the sample are not objectionable with regard to the tests performed. (2020) Our test reports are available for Wholesale Shea Butter Bulk customers or on request.

So now you know what our unrefined organic shea butter is based on. If you would like to know more about how shea butter is used in different sectors, you can read about it under «use of shea butter». But if you are more interested in using shea butter for moisturising or peeling, you can find a variety of products with shea butter in our online shop.

Soon we will reveal more about where and how shea butter is processed here in Switzerland. It remains exciting!

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