The trend of food manufacturers demanding oils free of trans fat apparently is not going away, and neither are escalating oil prices. The situation emphasizes the importance of selecting the right oils or oil blends for products free of trans fat and preferentially also reduced in saturated fat.
Soybean oil, Decatur, Ill., was priced at 49c per lb on Jan. 25, which compared with 27.5c per lb a year earlier. Palm oil, ports, was at 55c per lb on Jan. 25, up from 30.5c a year earlier. Prices for cottonseed oil, sunflowerseed oil and canola oil also gained over the year.
Palm oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil all appear in donuts recently introduced as free of trans fat. Dunkin’ Donuts, Canton, Mass., last year switched to palm oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil to create a donut with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat. Cottonseed oil remains stable without hydrogenation and thus has no trans fat, according to the National Cottonseed Products Association, Cordova, Tenn.
According to canolainfo.org, Winnipeg, Man., Cork’s Old-Fashioned Donuts, Albany, Ore., now offers trans-fat-free donuts. The company switched to a blend of cottonseed oil and soybean oil from the NovaLipid line of Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur. AarhusKarlshamn USA, Inc., Port Newark, N.J., also uses blends in its EsSence non-hydrogenated shortening line that may include canola, soybean, sunflower or safflower oils.
The trans-free transformation continued on Jan. 14 when Target, Minneapolis, said more than 2,000 products featured in its Archer Farms private label line will have 0 grams of trans fat based on the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling that any product with under 0.5 grams of trans fat should be rounded down and listed as 0 grams of trans fat. The Archer Farms products include berry pies, lemon cookies and blueberry muffins.
"Removing added trans fat has quickly become a priority among the health community and for good reason," said Susan Mitchell, a health and nutrition expert for Target. "Regardless of age or gender, consuming food products with added trans fat presents a host of long-term health concerns."
In donuts and other baked foods, palm oil generally may be used as a one-to-one replacement for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have trans fat. A content of about 50% saturated fat is a negative for palm oil. Both trans fat and saturated fat may affect cholesterol levels negatively.
Dunkin’ Donuts now uses palm oil in its glazed donuts and glazed cake donuts. Before turning to palm oil, when the company used a larger amount of partially hydrogenated oil, the glazed donuts had 4 grams of trans fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat while the glazed cake donut had 4 grams of trans fat and 5 grams of saturated fat. Now, nutrition data for both donuts show 0 grams of trans fat, but the glazed donut has gone up to 4.5 grams of saturated fat and the glazed cake donut has gone up to 9 grams of saturated fat.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., also recently announced its donuts were free of trans fat. The company’s original glazed donut and powdered cake donut now each have 6 grams of saturated fat.
Palm oil prices will remain high this year, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, Plantations Industries and Commodities Minister in Malaysia, said in a published report. He said the export value of his country’s crude palm oil reached RM45 billion ($14 billion), up from RM32 billion ($10 billion) in 2006.
Soybean farmers may receive a premium for low-linolenic soybeans, which do not require partial hydrogenation when they are turned to oil and thus avoid trans fat in the oil. Mostly Midwest farmers grew the low-linolenic soybeans in recent years, but Perdue AgriBusiness, Salisbury, Md., said it will be contracting low-linolenic soybeans from DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred for the 2008 growing season. Perdue will pay a 60c per bu premium for low-linolenic soybeans stored on-farm and delivered after harvest.
"Perdue is excited about the opportunity low-lin soybeans bring to both soybean growers on the Eastern Shore and our food company customers who are seeking to lower the trans-fat content of their products," said John Ade, vice-president of grain sales and merchandising for Perdue.
Scientific studies have shown trans fat may raise L.D.L. or "bad" cholesterol and decrease H.D.L. or "good" cholesterol. Because of these health concerns, the F.D.A. on Jan. 1, 2006, started requiring food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat in their products sold at retail.
Cities consider trans fat legislative initiatives
Recent legislative action from Boston to San Francisco has focused on reducing, or even banning, trans-fatty acids from food service operations:
Legislation in committee in the Baltimore City Council seeks to prohibit food service facilities from serving, using, storing, distributing or holding food containing trans fat, with certain exceptions. For example, legislators are considering an exception for food with a Nutrition Facts label or other documents from the manufacturer that lists the food’s trans fat content as less than 0.5 grams per serving. An exception also might apply to food served directly to patrons in the original sealed package of the manufacturer.
Baltimore restaurants may find it difficult to locate some prepared foods that do not contain trans fat from suppliers, said Melvin R. Thompson, vice-president of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, in the Jan. 26 issue of The Baltimore Sun. He gave pie shells and cakes as examples.
"Our problem is not that we want to continue using trans fats," he said. "Our problem is we have a lot of baked goods, and until (suppliers) are able to reformulate the products, our hands are tied."
The Boston Public Health Commission’s Board of Health on Jan. 10 gave preliminary approval to a ban on the use of trans fats by restaurants in the city. The board set up a 60-day period for public comment on the proposed legislation.
The San Francisco Health Code is considering a new voluntary program for the city’s restaurants. The program will use incentives to encourage restaurants to quit using trans fats. After a public hearing, the Director of Health would adopt guidelines, rules, regulations and forms to implement the Trans Fat Free Restaurant recognition program.
Qualified restaurants would pay a $250 fee to register and receive a standardized decal that may be posted. The next step would be to make the trans fat ban mandatory, said supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the legislation’s author, in the Jan. 30 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"San Francisco is known for its restaurants, and I think it’s important that our restaurants are healthy," she said. "We’re first going to try a volunteer program. People will get used to it and then we’ll go for the other."
Bill No. 124, introduced Jan. 28 in the Virginia State Senate, seeks to develop and disseminate guidelines for school divisions with the goal of gradually eliminating all foods containing trans-fatty acids from public schools. The bill seeks to begin with eliminating vegetable oils containing trans fat from school cafeterias. Other goals are eliminating foods sold as part of the official school breakfast and lunch programs; foods sold in vending machines on school grounds; and competitive foods sold during school hours.
The bill recognizes trans fats as fats created artificially through a chemical process involving the hydrogenation of oils.
This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, February 5, 2008, starting on Page 39. Click