Number of proposed pho alternatives widens

by Jeff Gelski
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Liquid oils are one option for replacing partially hydrogenated oils (phos).

Place algae oil in the tool box of alternative oils shown to replace partially hydrogenated oils (phos), which cause trans fat. While liquid oils like algae oils are one option, other choices include solid oils, oil blends, palm oil fractions and enzymatic interesterification.

The Food and Drug Administration earlier this year said it had no questions about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of high-oleic algae oil from Solazyme, Inc., South San Francisco, as an ingredient in food products.

“Due to its extremely low levels of polyunsaturates, the AlgaVia high stability algae oil offers unprecedented oxidative stability, outperforming partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with the added value of zero trans fat,” said Mark Brooks, senior vice-president of food ingredients at Solazyme. “It works extremely well for frying and has excellent shelf life. It can be used to replace or reduce oils that are high in saturated fats and trans fat, like partially hydrogenated soybean oil, in food products like dressings, potato chips and mayonnaise.”

Getting rid of phos soon may become a higher priority. The F.D.A. in the Nov. 8, 2013, issue of the Federal Register said it tentatively had determined phos are not GRAS for any use in food based on current scientific evidence establishing the health risks associated with consuming trans fat. If the proposed rule is finalized, food manufacturers no longer would be permitted to sell phos, either directly or as ingredients in another food product, without prior F.D.A. approval for use as a food additive.

Liquid oils such as AlgaVia may work alone to replace phos in frying applications. In applications like baked foods that require a more solid fat, liquid oils may work in oil blends.

“AlgaVia high stability algae oil can be used in a wide range of product applications, including oil blends,” Mr. Brooks said. “Its exceptionally neutral flavor makes for great blend-ability with other oils as well as being an optimal flavor carrier or protector in sensitive applications.”

AlgaVia oil contains 90% omega-9 fatty acids, 8% saturated fat, 2% polyunsaturates and no trans fat.

“With our facilities in Brazil and the U.S., we are confident that our ability to meet demand is not capacity constrained,” Mr. Brooks said.

Another trans-free liquid oil, canola oil, saw increased use over the past decade. Canola oil disappearance in the United States rose to 4,597 million lbs in 2013-14 from 1,929 million lbs in 2004-05, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In frying applications, canola oil works as a drop-in solution for pho replacement with no impact on taste, said Dave Dzisiak, commercial leader for grains and oils for Dow AgroSciences in North America.

“The bulk of what’s left to do is mostly in the baking side,” he said of pho removal.

In baked foods and other applications where more of a structured fat is needed, formulators may combine liquid oils with palm oil or enzymatically interesterified oil, he said.

“You’ve got a lot of flexibility,” Mr. Dzisiak “You can really custom design for the application and the need.”

Roger Daniels, vice-president of research and development and innovation for Stratas Foods, Memphis, said a “new normal” approach may work in replacing phos.

“The new normal is a term used to indicate that a return to traditional sources of fats coupled with high-oleic oils and advances in functional crystallization processing is expected to increasingly be exploited to achieve pho bakery shortening alternatives,” he said. “It is expected that the bakery shortenings will continue to be derived through physical blends or achieved via enzymatic interesterification.”

Several oil suppliers have their own toolbox of pho alternatives.

AarhusKarlshamn (AAK), which has a U.S. office in Port Newark, N.J., has experience in oil blends and shortenings. Loders Croklaan, a palm oil supplier with an office in Channahon, Ill., has sought to improve the image of saturated fat, saying it is more of a neutral oil that does not have a negative effect on heart health. The company also offers palm oil fraction ingredients that have less saturated fat.

“Currently there are several replacement options for phos,” said Lynne Morehart, senior principal scientist for oils and shortenings, for Cargill, Minneapolis. “These include the replacement of liquid oils in applications where it’s possible to maintain function; or the replacement with palm oil, palm blends, interesterified oils or additions of diglycerides where a solid shortening is needed for function. We’ve also developed innovative methods to incorporate structuring agents that are not fat-based into a fat matrix.”

Bunge has experience in interesterified oils.

“Given that we have already replaced much of our product line with trans-free and non-pho products, our emphasis has been on customization to meet the specific demands of the most difficult non-pho applications,” said Bob Johnson, director of research and development for Bunge Oils and based in Bradley, Ill. “In addition to performance standards, we have also developed technologies that allow for reductions of saturated fat levels in solid bakery shortening. For customers that are looking for palm-free, non-pho solutions, our innovation team has implemented technology to produce higher stability, solid shortening by bringing together the stability of high-oleic soybean oil with their expertise of structuring via enzyme interesterification.”

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, has commercialized soybean oil-based and palm kernel oil-based enzymatically interesterified products to meet customer requests to reduce or eliminate pho use since 2003.

“In the supply of soybean oil-based enzymatically intersterified products, ADM can vary the ratios of soybean oil and fully hydrogenated soybean in the blend to customize solid fat contents and melting behavior to address functional challenges,” said Tom Tiffany, senior technical sales manager for ADM Oils. “Product applications utilizing enzymatically interesterified oils and shortenings include spreads, baking, frying and confectionery, along with other culinary users.”

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