Supply of pho alternatives set to grow

by Jeff Gelski
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Trans fat-free interesterified soybean oil shortening. (Courtesy of Qualisoy)

WASHINGTON — Increasing supplies of canola oil, high-oleic soybean oil and certified sustainable palm oil should be welcomed news by food formulators seeking alternatives to partially hydrogenated oil. Sunflower seed oil is another option.

The Food and Drug Administration on June 16 said it has finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (phos), the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fat, are not Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human food. Food manufacturers have until June 18, 2018, to remove phos from their products. Any interested party may seek food additive approval for one or more specific uses of phos by providing data demonstrating a reasonable certainty of no harm of the proposed use or uses, according to the F.D.A.

More information may be found in the June 17 issue of the Federal Register at www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/17/2015-14883/final-determination-regarding-partially-hydrogenated-oils.

Soybean oil may be partially hydrogenated, but the soybean industry is promoting high-oleic soybean oil as an alternative. The American Soybean Association on June 16 said the F.D.A.’s three-year compliance period will allow the U.S. soybean industry to ramp up production of high-oleic soybean oil that has been shown to safely replace phos and highly saturated fats.

The A.S.A. said the existing use of phos in the marketplace is between 2 billion and 2.5 billion lbs. Qualisoy, an independent, third-party collaboration in the soybean industry, has estimated supply of high-oleic soybean oil will reach 90 million lbs in 2015, 140 million lbs in 2016, 400 million lbs in 2017, 1 billion lbs in 2018, 1.95 billion lbs in 2019 and 3.075 billion lbs in 2020. By 2024, supply should be 9.3 billion lbs, according to Qualisoy.

“I fully expect that high-oleic soybean oil will be the most functional and economical high stability liquid oil within five years,” said Richard Galloway, a consultant to the United Soybean Board and Qualisoy. “In fact, we expect that high-oleic soybeans will be the fourth largest U.S. crop by acreage by 2023. High-oleic soybean oil is a perfect solution for frying. It’s also an excellent choice for blending with solid fats to make high stability shortenings used by the bakery industry. High-oleic soybean oil blends can be used in nearly all applications that previously included phos.”

The Canola Council of Canada in January 2014 set a 2025 target to increase to an average of 52 bus per acre and hit 26 million tonnes of production. The council commissioned independent analysis that predicted global vegetable oil demand will grow to 250 million tonnes by 2025 from 150 million tonnes in 2015.

Supply of palm oil, which is not partially hydrogenated but is as much as 50% saturated fat, should not be a problem for formulators wanting to replace phos. Oil palm plantations have been associated with environmental issues such as deforestation, but the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is tackling that issue. Recently the R.S.P.O., a not-for-profit corporation composed of palm oil industry stakeholders, said globally it had certified 12.6 million tonnes of palm oil as sustainably sourced, or about 20% of the global supply of palm oil.

Fifty-six per cent of Americans rated sunflower oil as either “extremely healthy” or “somewhat healthful” in the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2015 Food & Health Survey, which was up from 49% in 2009.

“Sunflower oil is already healthy, but we are working to provide an even healthier option by moving the industry toward more high-oleic oil production,” said John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, Mandan, N.D. “High-oleic sunflower oil gives products a longer shelf life and also lasts longer in a fryer than other oils. Its neutral taste is ideal for allowing the true flavors in products to come through. High-oleic sunflower oil offers the optimal non-G.M.O., trans-free oil solution.”

The National Sunflower Association cites U.S. Department of Agriculture data showing area harvested for sunflower oil in the United States at 1,201,000 acres in the 2013-14 growing season. The forecast for the 2014-15 growing season is 1,139,000 acres.

Cargill, Minneapolis, lists a variety of ways to replace phos in a web site at www.cargill.com/transfats/. Naturally solid fats such as palm oil and palm kernel oil are options as are oils lower in saturated fatty acids and high in monounsaturated fatty acids, such as high-oleic canola oil. Food formulators also may consider emulsifiers and hard fractions of fat, interesterified oils, blends of liquid and fully hydrogenated or non-hydrogenated hardstocks, and fully hydrogenated oils.

The Food and Drug Administration addressed pho alternatives in a June 16 media briefing that covered its pho ruling.

“Depending on the application, there are different solutions that industry has come up with,” said Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of the F.D.A.’s Office of Food Additive Safety. “One of the things we want to avoid, in terms of this action, is anyway directing industry to one sort of solution, one direction, in terms of the solutions they find. We think there is a great opportunity for innovation here, and we’d like to encourage that.”
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