Refining of edible oils: a critical appraisal of current and potential technologies

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The major sources of dietary lipids are edible oils, which include both vegetable and fish oils. Crude oil extracted from vegetable and fish sources contain mono-, di-, triacylglycerols along with impurities, which necessitates refining. The main objective of refining is to remove the contaminants that adversely affect the quality of oil, thereby reducing the shelf life and consumer acceptance. However, this refining process needs to be tailored as the composition of crude oil is highly variable, depending upon the plant/fish species, geographical location of the source and method of oil extraction. Recently, extensive efforts have been made to develop refining technology, using either conventional physical/chemical processes or several unconventional processes including biological and membrane processes. The first section of this review gives a brief description of general composition of some commonly used vegetable and fish oils, followed by the review of various refining methods and their effects on the oil constituents. Finally, an effort is made to understand the technological gaps in the existing methods and possible directions of research to overcome the said gaps.


Edible oil is refined in industry typically through four steps viz., degumming, deacidification, bleaching and deoderization, and each step in turn may employ one or more technologies to accomplish the desired task. This figure summarizes all the existing and potential technologies available for refining the edible oil.

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