New method to detect use of shark oil in cosmetics and vaccines

A new method of analysing squalene and squalane, oils used for production of cosmetics and vaccines, can show whether they came originally from the liver oil of deepwater sharks or from olive oil.

Manufacturers haven’t found a way yet to detect the usage of these oils but the new scientifically validated method could be the answer to the problem.

Squalane is used as an emollient and a hydrating agent in many cosmetics, and squalene is used to increase the power of the vaccines.

A technique does exist to extract these compounds from vegetable sources such as olive oil, but shark-derived squalene offers a higher yield and requires shorter processing times, therefore involving lower costs.

This subsequently leads to increased killing of deep shark fish, declared illegal by European Union in 2006.

The method involves measuring the ratios of two different types of Carbon – called carbon isotopes – C-13 and C-12. The Carbon-13/Carbon-12 ratios were significantly lower in authentic olive oil than in shark samples.

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

“The new method could be proposed as an official way of detecting whether any batch of squalene or squalane has come from animal or plant sources, allowing manufactures to make clear claims about the ethical status of their products,” says Camin.

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The results will be announced in this month’s edition of Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.

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