Spilling The Beans On Trans Fat
By Maria Pilar Clark
QUALISOY is currently marketing the availability of low linolenic soybean oil, which is a liquid oil that does not require hydrogenation and performs comparably to partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Since low linolenic soybean oil does not require hydrogenation, no trans fats are produced and as a result, the trans fat content can be reduced or eliminated from food products and their labeling. Although trans fat labeling regulations go into effect in January 2006, the Food & Drug Administration has not provided guidance on the amount of trans fat recommended in the average American diet.
SF&WB engaged in a Q&A session with Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, and also a QUALISOY Board member to gain more insight into QUALISOY’s widespread efforts.
SF&WB: How are cookie manufacturers juggling the use of palm oil and trans fat?
Reeves: “Some cookie manufacturers are reformulating with palm oil as an alternative to partially hydrogenated soybean oil. However, it is premature to judge consumer acceptance of these products since many of them have just entered or are about to enter the marketplace.”
SF&WB: Do you think palm oil is going to be the “next big thing” in terms of what consumers and the media at large will focus on after the concentration on trans fat dies down? What does that mean for manufacturers?
Reeves: “Palm oil has benefited from the trans fat labeling regulation since it is a naturally stable oil and readily available at reasonable prices. Palm oil imports into the U.S. have gone from 623 million lbs. in 2003-04 to 725 million lbs. projected for 2004-05, and over 1 billion lbs. is projected for 2005-06. Obviously these import data reflect rapid growth in the short term. Future growth will depend upon several factors but particularly consumer acceptance, availability and price.”
SF&WB: Are there any ongoing studies or teasers you can share with us touting the benefits of soy-based trans alternatives?
Reeves: “Much research has focused on the development of more stable soybean varieties to significantly reduce the need for hydrogenation by producing oil of increased stability. The reduction of relatively unstable fatty acids such as linoleum and linolenic fatty acids and the increase of more stable mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic have therefore been the focus of much of this research. These emerging soybean varieties will certainly be touted for their desirable traits, particularly their increased stability.”
SF&WB: What are some new applications for salted snacks, cookies and bakery products in terms of using soy-based trans alternatives?
Reeves: “Introducing healthier soybean oils is one of the primary strategic goals of the QUALISOY effort, and it is already being achieved in the short term through low linolenic soybean oils. Low linolenic soybean oil eliminates the need for hydrogenation in some applications, thus eliminating trans fats that are created during the hydrogenation process. The new linolenic soybean oil will be useful in several applications including deep-frying, grilling, salted snacks, margarine, salad oils and certain bakery products.”
SF&WB: What health claims and/or other marketing claims are being projected to consumers in order to promote products?
Reeves: “The FDA has not approved any new health claims for potential use with products containing no trans fats. Also, the FDA has not approved any nutrient content claims such as “no trans fats,” “trans fat-free” or “reduced trans fat.” The agency has plans to test these and other terms to determine consumer understanding. Their potential use will be determined after such studies have been evaluated. In the meantime, advertisements may contain factual statements that are not misleading to customers.”
SF&WB: Are there any new innovations in regard to masking or refining the taste of soy?
Reeves: “Soybean oil is highly refined prior to being placed into the commercial food marketplace, thus it is virtually free of flavor. This is by design since most consumers want a cooking oil that does not impact taste, but rather preserves the existing flavor of the food being cooked in it.”
SF&WB: Have you had any special requests from bakers and/or snack producers regarding the manufacture of their products? Their biggest needs and/or concerns?
Reeves: “The baking and snack food manufacturing industries each have wide spectrums of products, therefore they have widely differing needs from oil-containing ingredients or cooking mediums. The primary performance attribute of oils desired by snack food producers has been oxidative stability to insure adequate shelf life. The single, most requested attribute of the baking industry has been an oil with adequate solids content to provide texture to certain baked goods while maintaining stability.”
SF&WB: What consumer trends are driving the popularity of soy-based trans alternatives?
Reeves: “Consumers want foods that taste good, are attractive, convenient, and are sold at a reasonable price. Soybean oil-based ingredients that are used as trans fat alternatives in food products must provide these attributes demanded by consumers. Many of these products are served at fast food restaurants or provided in foods that are quick and easy to prepare at home, therefore they must meet stringent functional requirements from a food technology standpoint, be stable, and be reasonable in cost.”
SF&WB: What are supermarkets asking for?
Reeves: “Supermarkets have relied upon food manufacturers to supply them with safe and nutritious foods which have good consumer acceptance, therefore most formulation decisions regarding trans fat-containing ingredients are being made by the manufacturers of such foods. The food industry has responded as quickly as possible to supply such food products to the retail sector.”
SF&WB: Are foodservice operators also interested in bringing down trans fat levels in their products?
Reeves: “Food service operators are quite interested in reducing trans fat levels in the foods they serve. Virtually all restaurant chains as well as some individual restaurants have worked closely with food suppliers to result in food products that meet the desirable attributes expected by consumers. Food service managers know that many consumers are well informed and are demanding more in terms of food quality, convenience, and healthfulness; thus it is very important that trans fat reduction take place at this sector.” SF&WB