Shark infested olive oil

The Column

The Column, The Column-06-07-2010, Volume 6, Issue 10

Squalene and squalane are oils, often used in the production of cosmetics and vaccines. Originally derived from the liver oil of deepwater sharks, squalane is also available from olives, and since 2008 some important cosmetic firms have claimed to switch to this more ethical squalane supply. However, the shark oil offers a higher yield and lower costs, so suppliers face the temptation to disguise the oil?s origin, while continuing to exploit sharks. A method in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry is reported to reveal the source, protecting sharks, as well as cosmetic firms and consumers.

Squalene and squalane are oils, often used in the production of cosmetics and vaccines. Originally derived from the liver oil of deepwater sharks, squalane is also available from olives, and since 2008 some important cosmetic firms have claimed to switch to this more ethical squalane supply. However, the shark oil offers a higher yield and lower costs, so suppliers face the temptation to disguise the oil’s origin, while continuing to exploit sharks. A method in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry is reported to reveal the source,1 protecting sharks, as well as cosmetic firms and consumers.

The method uses an isotope ratio mass spectrometer coupled to an elemental analyser or gas chromatography/combustion system to measure the ratio of carbon-13 and carbon-12. The carbon-13/carbon-12 ratios were significantly lower in authentic olive oil than in shark samples, providing a method to distinguish between the two.

“Our method will protect both cosmetic firms and consumers from commercial fraud. It will also allow the origin of squalane within a finished product to be determined,” said Federica Camin, who works at the IASMA Research and Innovation Centre Fondazione Edmund Mach, in San Michele all’Adige, Italy and was one of the authors of the article. “Together, this will discourage the illegal fishing of deepwater sharks and thus contribute towards protecting sharks from the threat of extinction.”

1. F. Camin et al., Rapid. Commun. Mass Spectrom., on-line 19 May 2010.

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.