• Shea butter is vegetable fat derived from the kernels of the shea nut (nut kernels from the tree) scientifically known as Vitellaria paradoxa, C.F. Gaertn (synonyms: Butyrospermum paradoxum, Butyrospermum parkii), from the Sapotaceae family
  • Unrefined shea butter is the oleaginous material obtained from the nut kernel of the Vitellaria paradoxa, C.F. Gaertn (synonyms: Butyrospermum paradoxum, Butyrospermum parkii), from the Sapotaceae family by manual or mechanical methods. It is obtained through a thermal process or cold pressed, which does not alter the nature of the fat. It can be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging.
  • Other definition(s) Lot is a specified quantity of unrefined shea butter that has uniform characteristics, enabling the quantity to be assessed.


  • Raw materials The raw materials shall be stored and handled under hygienic conditions while maintaining their physicochemical and microbiological characteristics.
  • General characteristics Unrefined shea butter shall not be mixed with other fats. It shall be free of all foreign matter.
  • Organoleptic characteristics The product shall have the characteristic colour, aroma and flavour of unrefined shea butter and be free from any rancidity. The colour varies from ivory-coloured to yellowish.
  • Quality criteria Unrefined shea butter shall meet the quality criteria specified in Table 1 of this Standard.



      Unrefined shea butter

      Grade I

      Grade II

      Maximum level

      Minimum level

      Maximum level

      Water content (%)




      Free fatty acids (%)




      Peroxide             value (milliequivalents of active oxygen/kg oil)







      Insoluble impurities (% m/m)




      Grade I: This grade of unrefined shea butter can be used for direct consumption;

      Grade II: This grade of unrefined shea butter can be used for the food industry (confectionery, chocolate, edible oil or the base for margarines).

  • Chemical and physical characteristics
    • Parameter


      Relative density (x= 20°C)

      0.91 – 0.98

      Density (x= 40°C)

      0.89 – 0.93

      Saponification value (mg KOH/g fat)

      160 – 195

      Iodine value (g I2/100g)

      30- 75

      Unsaponifiable matter (% m/m)

      1 – 19

      Refractive index at 44°C

      1.4620 – 1.4650

      Melting point (°C)

      35 – 40

  • Fatty acid composition
    • Fatty Acid

      % levels of fatty acids

      Lauric acid (C 12:0)

      < 1

      Myristic acid (C 14:0)


      Palmitic acid (C 16:0)

      2 – 10

      Palmitoleic acid (C 16:1)


      Stearic acid (C 18:0)


      Oleic acid (C 18:1)


      Linoleic acid (C 18:2)


      Linolenic acid (C 18:3)


      Arachidonic acid (C 20:0)



  • No food additives are permitted for use in unrefined shea butter.


  • The product shall comply with the relevant provisions of the General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed (CXS 193-1995)
  • The products covered by this Standard shall comply with the maximum residue limits for pesticides established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.


  • It is recommended that unrefined shea butter be prepared and handled in accordance with the appropriate sections of the General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969) and other relevant Codex codes of hygienic practice.
  • The product should comply with any microbiological criteria established in accordance with the Principles and Guidelines for the Establishment and Application of Microbiological Criteria Related to Foods (CXG 21-1997).


  • Name of the food The product shall be labelled in accordance with the provisions of the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods (CXS 1-1985). Furthermore, each container shall be marked with a label containing the following information:
    • Name of the product and grade – to be consistent
    • Name and address of the manufacturer
    • County of origin
    • Net weight in kg
    • Date of manufacture
    • Product shelf life
    • Production lot number or code
    • Storage instructions.
  • Labelling of non-retail containers The information required by this Standard and by  of the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods shall be given either on the container or in accompanying documents, except that the name of the product, the net weight of the product, date of manufacture, the production lot number as well as the name and address of the manufacturer, the packer, the distributor and/or importer shall appear on the container. However, lot identification, and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, and/or importer may be replaced by an identification mark, provided that such a mark is clearly identifiable with the accompanying documents.


  • Sampling Sampling shall be done in accordance with the provisions of ISO 5555:2001, Animal and vegetable fats and oils Sampling.
  • Analysis To ensure compliance with this quality standard, the samples selected as specified in clause 9 shall be tested in accordance with the appropriate testing procedures:
  • Test parameter


    Determination of moisture content

    – AOAC 920.116

    – IUPAC2.60

    – ISO 662: 1998

    Determination of free fatty acid content: acid value and acidity

    – ISO 660: 1996

    – IUPAC 2. 201

    Determination of relative density

    – IUPAC 2. 101

    Determination of saponification value

    – ISO 3657: 1988 (revised 1992)

    – IUPAC 2. 202

    Determination of iodine value

    – AOAC 925.56

    – ISO 3961: 1999

    Determination of peroxide value

    –  AOCS cd. 8b – 90

    –  IUPAC 2501

    – ISO 3960: 2005

    Determination of unsaponifiable matter

    – ISO 3596-1: 1996

    – IUPAC 2. 401

  • Determination of insoluble impurities content

    – ISO 663: 2000

    – IUPAC 2604

    Determination of melting point

    – ISO 6321: 2002

    Determination of lead content (Pb)

    – ISO 12193: 1994

    – AOAC 972.25

    – AOAC 994.02

    – IUPAC 2632

    Determination of arsenic content (As)

    – AOAC 952.13

    – IUPAC 3136

    Determination of iron content (Fe)

    – ISO 8294: 1994

    – AOAC 990.05

    – IUPAC 2631