Cottonseed oil is under scrutiny by some nutritionists, who deem it too high in saturated fat and too low in monounsaturated fat. Detractors say that cottonseed oil may contain natural toxins and unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues, since "cotton is not classified as a food crop, and farmers use many agrichemicals when growing it." The natural toxin, gossypol, is eliminated in the refining process of commercially edible cottonseed oil, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has documented the ‘lack of appreciable residues in cottonseed and cottonseed oil.’ Cottonseed oil has traditionally been used in foods such as potato chips and is a primary ingredient in Crisco, the shortening product. But since it is significantly less expensive than olive oil or canola oil, cottonseed has started to creep into a much wider range of processed foods, including cereals, breads and snack foods. Products that say "may contain one or more of these oils" and list cottonseed, virtually always contain it. Cottonseed oil resists rancidity and therefore offers a longer shelf life for food products in which it is an ingredient.
Once processed, cottonseed oil has a mild taste and appears generally clear with a light golden color, the amount of color depending on the amount of refining. Cottonseed oil has a relatively high smoke point as a frying medium. Like other long-chain fatty acid oils, cottonseed oil has a smoke point of about 450 °F (232 °C). Cottonseed oil is high in tocopherols which also contribute to its stability giving products that contain it a long shelf life, hence manufacturers' proclivity to use it in packaged goods.
Cottonseed oil is a cooking oil extracted from the seeds of cotton plant of various species, mainly Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium herbaceum. Cotton grown for oil extraction is one of the big four genetically modified crops grown around the world, next to soy, corn, and rapeseed (canola), mostly Monsanto products.
The cottonseed has a similar structure to other oilseeds such as sunflower seed, having an oil bearing kernel surrounded by a hard outer hull; in processing, the oil is extracted from the kernel. Cottonseed oil is used for salad oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and similar products because of its flavor stability. The cottonseed oil undergoes intensive treatment after extraction to reduce the level of gossypol found in untreated cottonseed oil, the consumption of which may produce undesirable side-effects.