Go Fish!
Dan Malovany, editor

If the Institute of Food Technologists show is any barometer of the next big thing, then fish oil must be it. While walking the exhibition in Chicago last month, I munched on fish oil bread, energy bars and muffins, washing it all down with assorted fish oil beverages. I ate and drank so much of it that I practically had gills growing out of my neck.
Actually, I’m a big fan of putting fish oil in snacks and baked goods. Combined with copious amounts of red wine, I’m practically guaranteed to live a long life, or at least minimize my risk of getting a heart attack. At least, that’s how the story goes.
If all of the health claims about Omega-3 are true, count me in. That’s because of my family history. It’s so bad that when I had my palm read two years ago, the psychic took one look and said, “Nice knowing you.” Yes, cholesterol issues and cardiovascular disease run rampant with the Malovanys, as do glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration — yes, both the dry and wet form of the eye disease.
Fortunately, fish oil contains the healthy Omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can help fight heart disease and those problems related to blindness. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration last year gave Omega-3 EPA and DHA the OK for a “qualified health claim,” stating that “supportive but not conclusive evidence” indicates that its consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, medical researchers add that people who already have congestive heart failure shouldn’t take Omega-3 because it might kill them.
Maybe that’s what they mean by “too little, too late.”
In addition, sketchy research indicates that Omega-3 fish oil may alleviate some psychological disorders. In fact, several researches refer to Omega-3 EPA and DHA as “brain food,” which would be of extreme interest to me because some unnamed person who lives my house keeps asking if I have “eaten a bowl of stupid for breakfast.”
But that’s another story.
I was just about to buy into the Omega-3 phenomenon when I received an e-mail from Hormel, which just rolled out its brand of purified Omega-3 ingredients. Yeah, the ol’ BS-ometer in my head began ding-a-linging pretty loudly when I read this, but Mike Buttshaw, corporate manager for the company’s specialty products division, assured me at the IFT show that Hormel’s propriety process eliminates fishy-smelling odors, poor shelf life and off flavors. And, after trying some orange juice containing Hormel’s Eterna brand fish oil, I also am happy to report that it didn’t taste like Spam.
Maybe fish oil is just ahead of its time. According to a 2007 consumer survey by InsightExpress and Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine, only about one-third of consumers say Omega-3 is a health benefit they want in baked goods.
Certainly, the Canadian flaxseed people can sympathize. They toiled for years trying to convince bakers and snack producers that flax was the next big thing because it contained Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the fish oil guys claim isn’t as good as their Omega-3 because it’s harder for the body to digest. During the past year or so, however, consumers seem to have embraced flax, which, when combined with whole grains, has become one of the most popular selling varieties of bread, as well as savory snacks. That’s because these products taste so good they make you want to say “A-Flax!”
Maybe that’s the story the Omega-3 guys should tell. Give us a reason to “go fish.” Saying that something doesn’t taste like it’s been rotting on a pier is like talking about the big one that got away.
Editor’s Note: It’s getting late to register — let alone find a convenient hotel — for the International Baking Industry Exposition, which will be held Oct. 7-10, in Orlando, Fla., for this year’s main event. For info, visit www.IBIE2007.com