Going natural means accepting a shorter shelf life for ingredients!

By Gay Timmons, founder Oh, Oh Organic

- Last updated on GMT

Gay Timmons, Oh, Oh Organic
Gay Timmons, Oh, Oh Organic

Related tags: Shelf life, Essential oils, Olive oil

As a raw material distributor of only certified organic, I must comment on an increasing trend that is in conflict with GMPs and Quality Systems that do not consider Organic and Natural ingredients.

As a raw material distributor of only certified organic, I must comment on an increasing trend that is in conflict with GMPs and Quality Systems that do not consider Organic and Natural ingredients. 

Twice in the past week companies have come to me saying that the material they bought was “past its shelf life” even though they bought it over a year ago. I’ve seen a general rise in this complaint over the past 2 years. 

I suspect a lot of this is that the increased demand for organic and natural ingredients has labs buying products that they don’t completely understand. 

People, people, people:  natural ingredients such as oils, essential oils and herbs are from plants and they are perishable​. If you can’t use a drum of olive oil in 6 months, don’t buy a drum – pay more and order a 5 gallon pail. 

A few guidelines:

High Oleic Oils (Sunflower and Safflower) are generally good for about 2 years from their manufacturer date if they have been refined.Oils: all oils, including many essential oils, will go rancid due to oxidation. There are two tests to tell you where your oil is when you receive it. These should be on the Certificate of Analysis: peroxide value and/or iodine value. Read up – not enough room here. You can re-test for these numbers at any time.

Unrefined oils are not as stable as refined (RBD, RBDW) oils. If it has been refined it should say so after the name of the oil, i.e., HO Sunflower Oil, RBD or Coconut Oil, Refined. If it doesn’t say so, ask the supplier.

Saturated fats like coconut and palm are very stable and you can occasionally get 3 years out of them. 

Oh Oh Organic
Oh Oh Organic warehouse

Specialty oils like hemp, raspberry seed, and flax are VERY perishable. Six months once opened. 

Castor oil (hey lipstick folks!) can last up to 4 years if handled correctly. 

Essential oils, especially the citrus oils, are very sensitive to light, heat and exposure to oxygen. Get a nitrogen tank and top those oils off! The rancidity of linalool and limonene produces toxins and has been recognized as the cause of sensitization (see IFRA 49).

All of the above can be stabilized with a bit of tocopherol (non-GMO of course) to add to their shelf life.

Herbs and olive can mean lunch

Herbs, which some people use to make extracts, etc. are also sensitive to various exposures (especially light) and, while we may have a Shelf life on a C of A, it is totally a shot in the dark. You need to assess the material for it’s esthetic sensory character. How did you handle it in storage? 

The joke I l heard when I first started in the industry was that petro-chemically derived ingredients had a “half-life” not a shelf life. Not the case with oils – so if you can’t use them up before their shelf life – pour them off and give them to your employees.

We have “Bread in Olive Oil” Fridays at our warehouse - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a bit of salt and pepper and fresh French bread is a fine way to use that oil before it goes bad.

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