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Commercial margarine

Margarine , artificial butter or oleomargarin (from French acid margarique “margaric acid ” from ancient Greek μάργαρον márgaron or μαργαρίτης margarítēs “pearl”) is an industrially produced fat spread . It serves as a substitute for butter and lard . Their health value is the subject of controversial debate.


(from left to right) Butter, clarified butter and margarine in comparison

Margarine is an emulsion made from vegetable and / or animal fats as well as water or skimmed milk with a fat content between 80% and 90%. For flavoring, acidulants such as lactic acid , citric acid , sour whey or yoghurt cultures are added. The yellowish color of margarine mostly comes from added beta-carotene . The subsequent addition of fat-soluble vitamins A , D , K and E is also widespread, as most natural vitamins are destroyed during production. The energy content of around 3000  kJ per 100 grams is about as high as that of butter.

Manufacturing process

Process step target Auxiliaries and additives
Pressing the oil seeds Extraction of the vegetable oil for example sunflower seeds, cottonseed, rapeseed seeds
Extraction of the oil with solvents Removal of sediment , color and provitamins Hexane , water
Degumming Change of consistency phosphoric acid
Deacidification Removing fatty acids Caustic soda
bleaching Removing unwanted dyes Fuller's earth
Filter Removal of unwanted components
Steaming Removing unwanted flavors
Mix the resulting tasteless and colorless vegetable oil is mixed with fats, colorants and flavorings Vegetable fats , vitamin E , vitamin A , vitamin D , carotene , salt, milk
Fat hardening , transesterification Adjusting the spreadability Nickel , hydrogen


Different methods are used to make the mostly liquid fats spreadable. A certain degree of solidification can take place, for example, through emulsifiers or the use of thickeners such as gelatine , pectin , alginates or milk protein . In conventional margarines, however, the hardening takes place primarily through the hydrogenation of the fats.

No chemical additives or auxiliary substances may be used with organic margarines. Instead, the spreadability is achieved physically through cold processes, the action of water or steam or through the addition of solid fats ( e.g. palm fat ).

Legal requirements

According to European legislation (Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013), margarine is the sales name for a product made from vegetable and / or animal fats with a fat content of at least 80% and less than 90%, and three-quarter fat margarine and half-fat margarine are separate sales names with a lower fat content.

The type and composition of the oils and fats to be used is not specified. They can be of both vegetable and animal origin. Usually 90% of the fats are vegetable, for example peanut oil , sunflower oil , palm oil , rapeseed oil , soybean oil or wheat germ oil. Animal fats used include beef tallow , milk fat, and fish oil . For the additional designation "rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids " at least 30% linoleic acid is required, with "particularly rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids" it is even 50%. To make it easier to differentiate between butter, the addition of starch was also prescribed until 1985 , so that butter and margarine could be easily distinguished using the iodine test .


Margarine and other fat products in the supermarket

There are different types of margarines:

Full fat margarine
It must contain between 80% and 90% fat and mostly consists of vegetable oils and fats. Additives are water, emulsifiers , whey , yoghurt , citric acid and β-carotene for the color .
Three-quarter fat margarine
It contains between 60 and 62% fat and can therefore only be used to a limited extent for baking or roasting.
Semi-fat margarine
This variety can contain between 39% and 41% fat. It is intended for a calorie-conscious diet, but not suitable for roasting and baking due to the high water content. The milk fat content is limited to a maximum of three percent. Sorbic acid is often used as a preservative .
Vegetable margarine
The fat content must consist of 97% vegetable fats and contain at least 15% linoleic acid. The fat content of a “sunflower margarine” must consist of 97% sunflower oil.
Reform margarine
It is particularly low in salt and must not contain any hydrogenated fats.
Organic margarine
Biomargarine is not chemically hardened. The spreadability is created by adding solid fats. According to the EC organic regulation, like other organic products, it may contain up to 5% substances from non-controlled organic cultivation. Ingredients from genetically modified organisms are not permitted.
Baked margarine
Different types of margarine that are intended for baking and have properties specially tailored to the intended use, such as smooth consistency for yeast dough and shortcrust pastry , good whipping properties for batter . The fat content is at least 80%, reduced-fat margarine is practically not used for baking.
It is intended as a drawing fat for the production of baked goods from puff pastry and Danish pastry ; Compared to baking margarine, their consistency is stable, plastic and as constant as possible at cool to warm room temperatures.

Nutritional physiology

Catalytic fat hardening with hydrogen: Above a triglyceride in an oil with a blue marked saturated fatty acid residue, a green marked monounsaturated fatty acid residue and a red marked triple unsaturated fatty acid residue. The triple acylated glycerine ( marked in black ) can be seen in the center of the structural formula above . Below the hydrogenation product (a fat).

The nutritional value of margarine is controversial. For many years, supposed health-promoting properties were massively communicated by companies through advertising. However, many claims have now been clearly refuted scientifically, so that a health benefit of margarine is only assumed in individual cases.

Comparison with butter

Scientific research seemed to confirm that margarine was preferable to butter. Like other vegetable fats, margarine is low in cholesterol , which has been considered beneficial for the human body. However, recent studies do not confirm this connection.

“According to a report in the Öko-Test magazine, the devil cholesterol is not a heart killer. The alleged danger that has spoiled millions of people from eating is of little use as a risk factor. "

Margarine made from mostly hydrogenated fats contains hardly any essential fatty acids , and if the hydrogenation is incomplete during the hardening process, trans fatty acids are formed . Therefore, soft margarines made from non-hydrogenated fats, which contain the essential, unsaturated fatty acids and only small amounts of cholesterol and trans- fatty acids, are increasingly recommended for consumption .

Modern recipes (as of: 2008) are usually no longer noticeable for their significant levels of trans fatty acids (levels of less than one percent) and usually have at least no unhealthy fatty acid composition or some use rapeseed and soybean oil as a rich source of omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Butter contains around 3.2% trans fatty acids, with vaccenic acid being the most common trans fatty acid in the fats of dairy products from ruminants (e.g. milk, butter, cheese) in a proportion of 1-8% In hydrogenated vegetable fats, the elaidic acid is the largest part of the trans fatty acids. In a study, the increased intake of natural trans fatty acids through dairy products increased both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in women . Another study even observed a slight decrease in the “good” HDL cholesterol level in very overweight women. In these studies, women always showed a less favorable reaction to the increased intake than men, on whom the increased intake of trans fatty acids via dairy products did not seem to have any significant effect. In population studies, however, it was observed that women sometimes reacted more favorably than men to an increased intake of trans fatty acids from dairy products. However, the unfavorable effect of the trans- fatty acids typically formed in the industrial production of margarine on LDL cholesterol levels and the risk of arteriosclerosis is well known and established.

Another study examined the relationship between frequent consumption of full-fat dairy products and a lower risk of diabetes 2 . Everything seems to indicate that the trans- palmitoleic acid (a monounsaturated omega-7 fatty acid) found in dairy products has a strong lowering effect on the risk of diabetes 2.

Hydrogenated fats

The high proportion of trans fatty acids that arise in some fat hardening processes (hydrogenation) is problematic . These put a strain on the cardiovascular system . To alleviate the problem, the fats in most margarine products were first fully hardened and then mixed with unhardened fats and oils. In this way, the proportion of trans fatty acids should be greatly reduced. The average fat composition of vegetable margarine today is 40% saturated and 45% monounsaturated and 15% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Organic and reform margarines usually do without chemical fat hardening thanks to special emulsion processes and the use of solid palm or coconut fats . Depending on the recipe, margarine products can also contain a particularly large number of unsaturated fatty acids, which in turn have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. This is especially true for products containing olive oil . However, the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids (recommended is 1: 2) or of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (recommended maximum 5: 1) declared on some products can deviate widely from the actual value.

In a test series by Stiftung Warentest in 2002, six of 40 types of margarine contained trans fatty acids. Nine types of margarine were rated “poor”. In this test, biomargarine performed worse than conventional products, as the testers certified it to have a “tallowy or rancid” taste. This was probably due to the production: organic margarines usually contain palm or coconut fats, which make the margarine spreadable; however, these fat mixtures sometimes had an aroma that was often perceived as unpleasant. In a test in 2008, however, the trans fatty acid content and the taste of biomargarines were no longer complained about. In the same test, “most of the test products” contained less than one percent trans fatty acids in fat (while up to 25% was previously common). Only two out of 27 products stood out “with around 3 percent”.

Glycidol fatty acid ester

Furthermore, the demonstrable formation of glycidol fatty acid esters (or glycidyl fatty acid esters ) during refining is considered problematic. The concentration of the fat pollutant is particularly high when using palm oil. In November 2010 , Öko-Test found this precursor of the genotoxic and probably carcinogenic glycidol in 16 of 19 margarine products . Semi-fat margarines are therefore to be preferred, in which the proportion of glycidol fatty acid ester is lower due to the higher proportion of water. Cold-pressed coconut oil or almond puree are suitable as an unrefined, organic, natural alternative in many cases.

The chemically related 3-MCPD fatty acid ester is also formed during refining, particularly at the high temperatures of the deodorization step . Compared to the 2008 test, however, there was only an increased concentration in three of the 19 margarine products. In addition, it is still unclear how completely the ester is converted into the free 3-MCPD during digestion , the toxic properties of which are also not yet fully understood. From the BfR's point of view, there is no acute health risk here.

Vitamin addition

Since most of the vitamins are destroyed during the hydrogenation , many vitamins are added back to the margarine afterwards. Since the mid-1920s, leading margarine producers began adding vitamin concentrates made from fruits, vegetables, cod liver oil, and irradiated lecithin to their wares. At the end of the 1920s, Rama in the blue band was also available containing vitamins, as were new vitaminized branded products such as Vitmargarin and Vitamina. However, due to the lack of synthesized vitamins, these expensive offers were withdrawn from the market during the global economic crisis. From 1941 the Nazi state began adding vitamin A to margarine as part of a comprehensive vitamin policy. After the Second World War, vitaminization was resumed, but from 1953 at the latest, a broad debate began, first among experts, and then also among the public, about the possible dangers of adding vitamins.

The addition of vitamin D in practically all margarines is considered to be unproblematic, since the basic supply of vitamin D in Germany is generally not optimal. This does not apply to the other frequently added vitamins A, E, B 6 and B 12 , as there is no undersupply. In general, the admixture of vitamins in food is now viewed critically by science.


The buttery color of margarine was developed by the Dutch pharmacist Lodewijk van der Grinten. He later used his knowledge of dyes and in 1877 founded the company Océ, which specializes in printing solutions . The initially used butter yellow , an azo dye , is now classified as carcinogenic. Instead, carotenoids are used today.

Nickel and aluminum

Metal catalysts are usually used in the hydrogenation . This means that traces of nickel or aluminum can also be contained in margarine, which, however, have so far been considered unproblematic due to the low concentrations in the range of 0.01 µg per 100 g. For example, the nickel concentrations in wheat bread (23 µg / 100 g) or cocoa (1.23 mg / 100 g) are significantly higher.

Further admixtures

At the beginning of the 20th century there were other admixtures, including a. of gypsum, water, magnesium silicate and barite:

“As I said, margarine is an extremely recommendable, high-fat and easily digestible butter surrogate , as long as it is sold as such and not sold as cow butter. […] Of course, the not infrequently observed mineral additives , such as gypsum , barite , and silica magnesia, are also to be regarded as adulterations . […] On the other hand, deliberate kneading of copious amounts of water occurs just as often as with cow butter. The same applies to dyeing as was said about dyeing for 'butter' and 'cheese': it is just a bad habit nourished by the taste of the public. "

History of margarine


The initiative for the invention of margarine went from Napoleon III. who was looking for a durable substitute for butter to feed his troops. In 1869, the chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès was successful with his invention, which he first called beurre économique (French “inexpensive butter”) and later called margarine Mouriès . For the first margarines , milk , water , kidney fat and the rennet or crushed cow udder that was no longer used were mixed together. Mège-Mouriès himself had little economic dexterity and sold his patent in 1871.

industrial production

In the same year, the pharmacist Benedikt Klein founded the Benedikt Klein Margarinewerke in Cologne-Nippes , the first margarine factory in Germany that produced the Overstolz and Botteram brands . Also in 1871, the Jurgens and van den Bergh companies began to produce margarine in the Dutch city of Oss and also marketed it in Germany. According to Wilhelm Fahrion (1920), the first margarine factory in Germany was founded in 1874 in Frankfurt am Main, numerous competitors were added, so that in 1885 there were already 45 companies in Germany that produced margarine.

In a treatise on food production in 1906 it says:

"The artificial butter , for which the name" margarine "is prescribed by a special imperial law, is the best and most common substitute for cow butter. If we call margarine the best butter substitute, the tacit requirement is that as raw material only absolutely healthy fats are used. "

The first purely vegetable margarine, which is made without chemical additives and auxiliaries, was produced in 1952 by the Fauser / Vitaquell company in Hamburg-Eidelstedt and only sold in health food stores.

Concentration on the market

Because margarine production grew in importance, the product was subject to a 30 percent protective tariff in Germany in 1888 . In order not to lose the German market, Jurgens and van den Bergh opened production facilities in Kleve and Goch on the Lower Rhine and produced brands such as Rama butterfein and Schwan im Blauband . In the following period there was a strong concentration in the margarine business. Jurgens and van den Bergh became the dominant forces in the European market . They gradually bought up competitors (including the Benedict Klein Margarinewerke , which later produced the first margarine with a reduced trans fatty acid content) and finally merged in 1927 to form Margarine Unie NV, based in Rotterdam .

In England, William Hesketh Lever marketed an artificial butter made from lard, whale oil, palm oil, peanut and coconut fat under the brand name Butterine . Together with his brother James , he expanded very dynamically in his home market as well as in the USA and the countries of the British Commonwealth and secured access to important raw materials in addition to the sales markets, for example by purchasing the Niger Company in 1920.

The Unilever company was created in 1930 from a merger of the Lever Brothers with Margarine Unie . The spreads division (with the brands Rama , Sanella , Lätta and Becel ) was sold to the financial investor KKR in 2017 and now operates under the name Upfield Holdings . The second largest German manufacturer is Walter Rau Lebensmittelwerke ( Deli Reform , Buttella , Vitareform , Sana , Sonja , Marina ), which has been owned by Bunge Limited since 2008 .


Web links

Commons : Margarine  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Margarine  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. REGULATION (EC) No. 1234/2007, Appendix to Annex XV (PDF) .
  2. Doris Woizik, Stephan Agnischock: Elaboration and teaching aids on the subject: Fats in chemistry lessons (intermediate level) . January 2008, p. 29, 30 ( [DOC; 3.8 MB ; accessed on May 7, 2019]).
  3. Margarine in the test - competition for butter. In: Stiftung Warentest, July 26, 2017, accessed on May 7, 2019 .
  4. Reformmargarine .
  5. a b c d Stiftung Warentest, January 24, 2008: “ Margarine: The best for your breakfast ”.
  6. Claus Schünemann, Günter Treu: Technology of the bakery production. Specialized textbook for bakers . 10th edition. Gildebuchverlag, Alfeld / Leine 2009, ISBN 978-3-7734-0150-2 , p. 233 .
  7. Claus Schünemann, Günter Treu: Technology of the bakery production. Specialized textbook for bakers . 10th edition. Gildebuchverlag, Alfeld / Leine 2009, ISBN 978-3-7734-0150-2 , p. 261 .
  8. Öko-Test: Cholesterol is not a heart killer. September 23, 2010, accessed May 2, 2011 .
  9. German Nutrition Society: Fat FAQ . Retrieved August 18, 2012.
  10. H. Zevenbergen et al .: Foods with a high fat quality are essential for healthy diets. In: Ann Nutr Metab. (2009), Vol. 54 Suppl. 1, pp. 15-24, PMID 19641346 .
  11. K. Kuhnt et al .: Trans fatty acid isomers and the trans-9 / trans-11 index in fat containing foods. In: Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. (2011), Vol. 113 (10), pp. 1281-1292, PMID 22164125 . PMC 3229980 (free full text)
  12. JM Chardigny et al .: Do trans fatty acids from industrially produced sources and from natural sources have the same effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors in healthy subjects? Results of the trans Fatty Acids Collaboration (TRANSFACT) study. In: Am J Clin Nutr. (2008), Vol. 87 (3), pp. 558-66. PMID 18326592 .
  13. E. Lacroix et al .: Randomized controlled study of the effect of a butter naturally enriched in trans fatty acids on blood lipids in healthy women . In: Am J Clin Nutr. (2012), Vol. 95 (2), pp. 318-325, PMID 22205319 .
  14. Wissenschaft-aktuell: Not all trans-fatty acids are bad .
  15. Interview Walter Willet, MD January 9, 2004, accessed on May 2, 2011 (English): “The evidence that we accrued really suggested not only that the type of advice that people were getting was not useful, but it actually could be dangerous , because some people were eliminating the very healthy types of fat that actually reduce heart disease rates. "
  16. Working group of consumer associations (ed.): Health food - healthy food? Düsseldorf, fifth edition, 1996, page 76.
  17. a b c Öko-Test: margarine and spreadable fats - cross-off list. October 29, 2010, accessed July 18, 2011 : “Glycidol is toxic and likely to cause cancer in humans. That much is certain. It is also certain that a possible precursor of glycidol, so-called glycidyl (fatty acid) esters, is found in margarine. "
  18. Stiftung Warentest: Fatty acids in margarine (2002) .
  19. ^ Stiftung Warentest, April 25, 2002: " Margarine: Nine are defective ".
  20. Archived copy ( Memento of the original from July 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Öko-Test (2008) margarine, oils and fats - fats that ?. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  21. Uwe Spiekermann: Artificial food. Nutrition in Germany, 1840 until today . 1st edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2018, ISBN 978-3-525-31719-8 , pp. 406-407 .
  22. ^ Spiekermann: Artificial food . S. 423-426 .
  23. ^ Spiekermann: Artificial food . S. 674-675 .
  24. Vitamin supply in Germany: No real reason to worry! July 14, 2010, accessed on July 18, 2011 : “There is no real reason to worry in Germany, in particular there is no vitamin deficiency, but rather a supply gap for individual vitamins (vitamin D, folic acid, vitamin E), that is, the supply of these Vitamins is below the reference range "
  25. Vitamins and trace elements: (K) a plus for health? , Cancer Information Service of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg. November 3, 2011, accessed September 4, 2014.
  26. ^ A b Albert Otto Paul: Our food and its adulteration . Publishing house for art and science, Leipzig 1906.
  27. Hippolyte MEGE MOURIE ( Memento of the original from August 17, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  28. Johannes Maubach: In the footsteps of the old Ehrenfeld industry , Cologne 2005, p. 55.
  29. a b c INDUSTRIE / UNILEVER - Das Pfennig-Imperium , article from September 28, 1960 , accessed on August 26, 2014.
  30. see W. Fahrion: The manufacture of margarine, glycerine and stearine, Göschen Collection, 1920 online on the website of the German Society for Fat Science (PDF; 13.2 MB), page 25.
  31. ↑ Health food store: Diversity for decades ( Memento of the original from October 31, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed August 26, 2014. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  32. Wirtschaftswoche: Years of corporate restructuring weakens Unilever , article from April 22, 2008 , accessed on August 26, 2014.