Tuesday, October 19, 2010
just add a little lye....manufacturing DHA
Rereading patents sometimes gives you a new perspective. I never noticed a statement made in a Martek Bioscience patent called, "Infant formula and baby food containing docosahexaenoic acid obtained from dinoflagellates," patent # 5397591 filed in 1992.
Part of the process of manufacturing microbial oils is to add sodium hydroxide or caustic potash to neutralize any free fatty acid.
"A base, such as KOH or NaOH is used to adjust the media prior to inoculation." [ KOH=caustic potash, NaOH=sodium hydroxide, lye]
How do we get sodium hydroxide or caustic potash? These substances are listed as hazardous. A process that is used is called the Castner-Kellner process which is a mercury cell process invented in 1892. This process uses electrolysis to create sodium hydroxide. The mercury cell process is gradually being phased out because the plant operations release mercury into the environment. Does sodium hydroxide have residual mercury that could contaminate the food that is being neutralized?
Martek Bioscience has another patent called, "Solventless extraction process," patent # 7781193 filed in 2007. Once again they are still using sodium hydroxide in the manufacture of their microbial oils. Their solventless extraction method does leave some trace metals: lead, arsenic, iron, mercury..all less than 0.02, and less than 3 ppm of hexane. I wonder the amounts of metals left with the hexane extraction method that has been in use until they invented this solventless method?
Mercury must be in caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and caustic potash because there are standard test methods for determining the amount of mercury present in these substances.
It is hard to fathom that a food, particularly a food/supplement given to infants, children, and pregnant women would be processed with something so hazardous. I guess a little lye wouldn't hurt us.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain