Is Hexane Natural?
At its core, hexane is a naturally occurring chemical. It is classified as an organic compound, meaning it has carbon. Hexane is also nonpolar, which indicates what it mixes well with when serving as a solvent. Oftentimes, hexane is referred to as “n-hexane”, indicating that the hexane is “normal” due to its straight-chain nature. Aside from this chemistry jargon, it is important to understand where hexane comes from in the real world. Hexane is derived from crude oils, which are made from petroleum. This leads hexane to often be seen in gasoline since they fall into the same category.
What Does Hexane Do?
Hexane is a solvent, meaning that it extracts materials from substances. Hexane is one of the most popular solvents on the market, used in the manufacturing of many everyday products, which includes foods. Some may be concerned here, as hexane is both derived from petroleum and used in foodstuffs. However, one key to consider is that hexane is derived from petroleum through a controlled fractional distillation process. This means that the refinery of hexane from petroleum is more effective than a traditional distillation method would allow for, so less of those “gasoline” characteristics are going to be attributed to hexane itself.
Is Hexane Safe in Food?
As hexane is interacting with various consumer food products, it makes sense to question what this solvent looks like from a safety perspective. Although hexane is aiding in the food production process via separation techniques, it is not going to serve as an end-ingredient in the final food product. Consuming a product that has touched hexane is not going to have as severe of health effects as consuming straight hexane. However, it is transparent to note that the FDA does not test to see how much hexane ends up leftover in the food after the production has been completed. Still, hexane has been approved by the FDA as a food-grade solvent so that oils can be extracted from foods. Food-grade solvents are considered safe to use in food production, which is good news for hexane. Solvents vary in levels of toxicity, and hexane is one of the more ideal solvents to use due to it being relatively odorless and colorless.
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