History of Hydrogenation, Shortening and Margarine (1860-2020)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-18-2

Publication Date: 2020 June 4

Number of References in Bibliography: 2445

Earliest Reference: 1860

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Hydrogenation, Shortening and Margarine

1869 – Margarine is invented by the Mège Mouriés, a Frenchman, in an attempt to alleviate shortages of butter. He won a prize offered that year by Napoleon III. He called it oleomargarine because its main ingredients were beef fat (called oleo) and margaric acid. Oleomargarine quickly became popular in northern Europe and the United States.

1871 – The first factories begin production of margarine in Denmark and The Netherlands.

1872-73 – The first factories begin production of margarine in France.

1874 March 7 – An ad for Butterine, by Caleb Hosmer, appears in The Grocer (London). Secured by Royal Letters Patent, October 16th, 1873. The Patentee guarantees the process perfectly wholesome, in addition to the following important advantages: – The cost is nearly one-half less than butter; for pastry it makes a lighter crust; it is better adapted for children and invalids; the process is perfectly simple and inexpensive; it is made in a few minutes, with an ordinary churn.”

1874 – The first factories begin production of margarine in Austria-Hungary.

1874-76 – The first factories begin production of margarine in the United States.

In 1884 New York enacted the world's first anti-margarine laws – though they were voided in 1885 by a New York court.

1875 – The first factories begin production of margarine in Germany.

1886 – The president of the American Agricultural and Dairy Association demands the “total extermination of imitation butter.” That same year the U.S. congress passes the Margarine Act of 1886; a tax of 2 cents a pound is imposed and various expensive licenses are mandated for manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. The law also decrees that the product must be clearly labeled "oleomargarine."

1887 – The first Margarine Act is passed in England, where margarine was initially sold under the name of "Butterine." It requires that the product be sold only under the name "margarine." Similar laws are soon passed in France (1887) and the Netherlands. In Europe, oleomargarine was never taxed.

1889 – The first factories begin production of margarine in the United Kingdom.

Margarine has always been less expensive than butter. In the early years consumers were often sold margarine (or a mixture of margarine and butter) under the impression that they were buying unadulterated butter. Therefore, starting in the 1880s legislation was enacted in many countries to prevent fraud. Few of the world's foods have been subjected to more discriminatory legislation and court decisions than margarine. Most of this was prompted by political action on the part of powerful national dairy industries.

1896 – An long article on “Butter substitutes,” by A.E. de Schweinitz, is published in the Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture (p. 445-52). For the year 1895. It compares the nutritional value of oleomargarines, butterines, and butters, and gives details on how oleo oil, the main ingredient in oleomargarine, is prepared. Also discusses the fraudulent sale of oleomargarine.

1901 – The development of hydrogenation freed shortening from dependence on animal stearin. Sabatier's work was with hydrogenation of substances that could be vaporized.

The first patent (German Patent 139,457 of 26 July 1901) issued to Senderens was probably the first patent record relating to the reduction of organic substances by hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst (Weber & Alsberg 1934).

1902 – Normann introduces hydrogen in the liquid state into oils and fats (German Patent of Herforder Maschinenfett, No. 141,029 of 14 Aug. 1902, and British Patent of 26 Nov. 1903) (p. 266).

Normann's process was used by 1906 to hydrogenate whale oil for margarine. Thus whale oil was the first oil hydrogenated for an edible purpose or for margarine (Weber & Alsberg 1934).

1906 – The world’s first large-scale hydrogenation plant begins operations in England, at Crosfield's factory in Warrington (M.K. Schwitzer. 1956. Margarine and Other Food Fats: Their History, Production and Use (See p. 59-78).

1911 –Crisco is introduced by Procter & Gamble Co. In 1909 P&G had acquired the rights to the Normann/Crosfield on hydrogenation. Crisco is the world’s first shortening made using hydrogenation. Pure white and sold in cans, it is made from hydrogenated refined cottonseed oil. “Crisco” is an abbreviation of the words “crystallized cotton oil” (The Story of Crisco).

1912 – Soy bean oil is first mentioned in a U.S. patent in connection with shortening. U.S. Patent 1,047,013 (issued to Ellis) recommends use of hydrogenated soy oil in making a “lard substitute.”

1912 – Soy bean oil is first mentioned for use in foods in the U.S.; 717 tonnes are used to make shortening and 322 tonnes to make margarine.

1914 – Soy bean oil is first used in lard substitutes [shortening], when it accounted for 0.1% of the total compound ingredients. That year 1,585,000 lb of soy oil were used in lard substitutes. Its use grew to 14 million lb in 1916, to 34 million lb in 1917, to 57 million lb 1918 – a dramatic series of yearly increases (Market Reporter {USDA}. 1920. Dec. 4, p. 366; Weber & Alsberg. 1934. p. 125).

1916 – The term “imitation lard” is used to refer to shortening (C. Ainsworth Mitchell).

1918 – In 1918, coconut oil is by far the leading vegetable oil used to make oleomargarine, followed by cottonseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and corn oil.

Also in 1918, cottonseed oil is by far the leading vegetable oil used to make lard substitutes [shortening], followed by soybean oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, and corn oil (Piper & Morse. 1923. The Soybean. p. 201).

1919The Hydrogenation of Oils: Catalyzers and Catalysis and the Generation of Hydrogen and Oxygen. 2nd ed., by Carleton Ellis, is published by D. Van Nostrand Co. in New York City.

1923 Jan. 12 – An article titled “Selective hydrogenation,” by Thomas P. Hilditch and C.W. Moore is published in the Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry (London).

The article begins: “The term selective hydrogenation is used to indicate the preferential saturation of one or more double bonds in compounds containing several unsaturated centres.” Soya bean oil is mentioned.

This is the earliest document seen (May 2020) containing the term “selective hydrogenation” or with the term “selective hydrogenation” in the title.

1924 – It is now widely realized that hydrogenation of vegetable oils is required to make hard soaps (Cullison 1924, p. 5-10).

1929 – The term “partial hydrogenation” is used in an article titled “The products of partial hydrogenation of higher monoethylenic esters,” by T.P. Hilditch and N.L. Vidyerthi, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A.

1930s – Many U.S. states have banned the sale of yellow-colored margarine, which is more popular than its natural white counterpart (World Book Encyclopedia 2003 at Margarine).

1934The American Vegetable-Shortening Industry: Its Origin and Development, by G.M. Weber and C.L. Alsberg is published at Stanford University by the Food Research Institute (xii + 359 p.).

1944 – Refined soybean oil production reaches 1,245.8 million pounds, to pass that of cottonseed oil.

And soy oil passes cottonseed oil to become the leading U.S. shortening ingredient (Soybean Digest, April 1945, p. 33).

1949 Dec. – “Push for federal margarine repeal.” “Ohio became the 32nd state to permit the manufacture and sale of yellow margarine on Dec. 8. The Ohio law was repealed in the special referendum 1 month earlier. Vote was 1,282,343 to 793,195.

“Observers believe the Ohio victory greatly strengthened margarine's chances of repealing federal taxes and license fees when Congress reconvenes Jan. 3. The repeal bill (HR 2023) is still slated to be the Senate's first order of business.”

“Ohio was the 13th state since 1944 to repeal its ban on yellow color. The issue reached the polls as the result of initiative petitions signed by more than 400,000 voters. It was the first test of the margarine question by popular vote” (Soybean Digest. 1949 Dec. p. 22).

1950 March 16 – Federal taxes on oleomargarine are repealed when President Truman signs Public Law 459. The anti-margarine legislation which taxed yellow margarine 10 cents a pound is gone. The taxes were: $600 for manufacturers of oleomargarine; $200 for wholesalers ($480 if colored oleomargarine is sold); and $6 for retailers ($48 if colored oleomargarine is sold). The vote was overwhelming despite strong opposition from butter interests. The new act goes into effect on 1 July 1950 (Oils and Fats Situation (USDA) 1950 Feb/April. FOS-140.

1953 Sept. – “Only two states, Wisconsin and Minnesota, prohibit the manufacture and sale of yellow margarine. Only this year, Iowa, South Dakota and Montana repealed their statutes against yellow margarine” (Soybean Digest, p. 36-37).

1953 – Soy oil production passes that of lard to become America's leading food oil or fat.

1953 – Shortening (with soy oil as its leading ingredient) passes lard to become America's number one cooking fat.

1957 – Per capita margarine consumption in the U.S. passes that of butter (8.6 vs. 8.3 lbs.). This is part of a larger trend away from animal fats in the diet, and the first time a plant-based food has surpassed its animal-based counterpart.

1957 Nov. – “Soybean oil could supply up to 60 or 70 percent of essential fatty acids in the American diet, but most EFA are destroyed by hydrogenation, says the author” (Soybean Digest. p. 6-10).

1958 Jan.The Vanaspati Industry, by Gopal S. Hattiangdi is published in Bombay, India. An excellent history of vanaspati, which is used to replace ghee.

1960 June – “Today the U.S. soybean crop contributes 85% of the oil consumed in margarine, 51% of the oil consumed in shortening, and 47% of the oil consumed in salad and cooking oils” (Soybean Digest, p. 20-21).

1963 – In Pakistan: “Production of vanaspati (hydrogenated vegetable oil) which stood at 300 tons in 1948, shot up to 77,100 tons in 1963.” This was largely thanks to the establishment of Pakistan Industrial Development Corp. in 1952 (Soybean Digest. 1965, May. p. 78-79).

1963 – The ban on yellow margarine is lifted in Ontario, Canada (Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board. 1989. 40 Years of Progress: Fortieth Anniversary, 1949-1999. Chatham. 49 p.).

1965 – This year the American Soybean Association (ASA) “sponsored six technicians of the Japanese Margarine Makers Association to visit the Miami Margarine Company in Cincinnati, Ohio to study how to make margarine using soy oil (40). Upon their return, they made ‘Uni-Soya’ margarine from soy oil, which was cosponsored by ASA, JOPA, and the Margarine Association. Uni-Soya margarine was distributed to consumers in Tokyo and Osaka and became the first margarine in Japan made from soy oil. Because of this project, soy oil use for margarine production significantly increased” (Michael Conlon. 2009. GAIN Report (Global Agriculture Information Network). No. JA9502. 14 p. Jan. 20)

1967 – All state bans on yellow margarine in the USA have now been lifted. Wisconsin was the last state to remove its ban.

1970 Aug. 9 – Organic Merchants, meeting on Mt. Shasta (in northern California) state that their member companies have agreed not to sell certain foods and additives they consider harmful: artificial flavors and colorings, white sugar and synthetic sweeteners, synthetic preservatives and emulsifiers, corn syrup and hydrogenated fats. This is their “contract with the public” (San Francisco Examiner. “The organic revolution.” LifeStyle section, p. 7. Sunday).

This is the earliest document seen deriding hydrogenated fats as harmful to health.

1970The Story of Margarine, by S.F. Riepma is published. One of the best books ever written about margarine, by one of America's leading experts on the subject.

1970 – Margarine sales in the USA more than doubled from 1950 to 1970. The quality had steadily improved and price had steadily fallen relative to butter.

1970 – Use of soy oil in cooking and salad oils passes that in shortening to become the leading form of soy oil utilization in America.

2003 July 9 – The U.S. Food and Drug Association announces, after more than a decade of debate, that it will require food processors to include the amount of artery-clogging trans fatty acids on nutrition labels. The new requirement does not go into effect until 2006. Trans fats began to be used in foods in the 1980s to avoid another health risk, saturated fats. Trans fats were found in thousands of processed foods.

The leader in the scientific movement to show that trans fats are unhealthy is Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Trans fats are now considered at least as bad as saturated fats, and some scientists think they are worse. Unlike any other fat, they raise the level of low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol); they may also raise triglycerides and may lower the level of high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol).

The National Academy of Sciences said in July 2002 that the level of trans fats in the diet should be as low as possible.

2018 – Monsanto’s Vistive Gold (technically known as MON 87707) is launched. It is a genetically engineered variety of glyphosate-resistant, low-linolenic, high oleic soybeans. Its oil was designed as a replacement for hydrogenated oils and fats which are high in trans fatty acids. No animal (or human) tests have been conducted to determine the long-term safety of this genetically engineered soybean when used as food.

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