Soybean oil, non-pho oils
The F.D.A. has approved a qualified health claim for soybean oil.

KANSAS CITY — Food companies know they must replace partially hydrogenated oils (phos). They also should be aware that alternative oils may come with added benefits, such as being low in saturated fat, organic, non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. or having the ability to extend a product’s shelf life. Soybean oil even received a qualified health claim from the Food and Drug Administration this year.

Food companies have less than a year to remove phos from their products. The F.D.A. in the June 17, 2015, issue of the Federal Register determined there no longer is a consensus among qualified experts that phos, which are the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fatty acids, are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human food. The F.D.A. gave food companies until June 18, 2018, to remove phos.

Alternative oils are coming from such sources as soybeans, canola, palm and sunflower.

Bunge North America, St. Louis, in July announced the F.D.A. had approved its petition for a qualified health claim linking consumption of soybean oil to reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The F.D.A. said supportive but not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 ½ tablespoons (20.5 grams) daily of soybean oil, which contains unsaturated fat, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. To achieve the possible benefit, soybean oil should not increase the amount of saturated fat in the diet or the total number of calories eaten in a day, according to the F.D.A.


The claim may be used when food and menu items include at least 5 grams of soybean oil per serving and meet applicable criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium content. Food products containing soybean oil, including margarine, margarine substitutes and margarine products, also must be a good source of one of six beneficial nutrients identified by the F.D.A. Soybean oil, soybean oil blends, salad dressings and shortenings may carry the claim without having to be a good source of one of the six nutrients, but they must meet criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium content.

“The F.D.A.’s decision provides opportunities for food companies to develop more heart-healthy products, consumers looking to improve their heart health and soybean farmers who thrive when demand for their crop increases,” said Mark Stavro, Ph.D., senior director of marketing for Bunge North America.

High-oleic soybean oil now on the market comes with other benefits. Its oleic content of more than 70% offers improved shelf life for baked foods and snacks through resistance to oxidation. Qualisoy, based in Chesterfield, Mo., and a third-party collaboration within the soybean industry, expects 300 million lbs of high-oleic soybean oil to be available in 2018, which would be up from 243 million lbs in 2017. The goal is to reach 9,300 million lbs by 2027.

Maverik Oils, L.L.C., Redlands, Calif., now includes high-oleic soybean oil in its portfolio of non-pho oils. Sunflower, canola, safflower and olive are other sources of oils. Besides conventional oils, Maverik offers non-G.M.O. and organic versions.

The company specializes in non-pho release agents.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is increase the cycles in the pans for our baking customers,” said Chase Newman-Brewer, president and managing partner.

Maverik Oils plans to open a facility in Tennessee next year that should reduce shipping times to customers in the Southeast and the Midwest.

Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn., in 2016 introduced Apex, a non-pho soybean shortening line that uses the company’s proprietary Flex crystallization technology.

“Apex offers a new, unprecedented standard of shortening functionality without the pho, expanding the reach of non-pho, soy-based shortenings, making it a true drop-in solution, eliminating the need to alter environment or temperature processes,” said Roger Daniels, vice-president of research, development and innovation.

Cupcakes made with non-pho oils
Emulsified cake and icing shortening void of phos may be used to create spiced mango cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting.

Icing and donuts may be the most challenging applications when replacing phos, he said.

“Donut frying requires a unique functionality that other areas, like the pie industry, don’t demand,” Mr. Daniels said. “Stratas Foods conducted several rounds of batch-controlled studies for donut frying, testing the end products for quality, texture, oil weeping, oil absorption and donut size, both width and height.”

The research and testing led to Stratas developing Apex.

Icing and spreads are two of the most challenging applications when replacing phos, said John Satumba, Ph.D., food ingredients and analytical chemistry director, global edible oil solutions R.&D. for Minneapolis-based Cargill.

“Using our product experience and established supply chains, we have been helping customers replace phos across all food categories, without compromising (key) considerations,” he said. “Cargill in North America ceased production of phos for food in December of 2015 and successfully converted a majority of our customers or offered functional alternatives to those who did not convert.”

Not only soybean oil may be used as a pho alternative. Healthy Food Ingredients, Fargo, N.D., offers non-pho oils sourced from canola, coconut, corn, flax and sunflower. The oils may be gluten-free, identity-preserved, kosher, non-G.M.O. or organic.

“Any of these oils can be utilized to replace partially hydrogenated oils based on intended application and other ingredients incorporated into the finished product,” said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer.

Food companies have much to consider when switching to non-pho oils.

“It depends on if they are looking at switching from a solvent to expeller, looking to non-G.M.O., organic, etc., as well as, again, the application,” she said.

Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, cites data from Millennial Marketing that show 43% of snack consumers consider non-G.M.O. to be a very important attribute for their snacks. Another 30% consider it to be moderately important. Dow AgroSciences offers omega-9 fatty acid oils sourced from canola or sunflower that may be used in crackers, cheesy snacks, chips, nuts, tortilla chips, par-fried snacks, extruded snacks, popcorn and pretzels. The oils are available in Non-GMO Project verified forms.

AAK USA has been working on what it calls “pho 2.0” at its innovation center in Edison, N.J., said Terry Thomas, president of AAK USA. The company showcased how its customers may use non-pho alternatives during IFT17, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in June in Las Vegas.

AAK’s brands of multi-functional fats are non-hydrogenated and low in saturated fat. AAK at IFT17 featured its Cisao brand of shortening, shortening flakes and margarine in such applications as butter flake biscuits and cinnamon flake biscuits, classic brioche, a spiced mango cupcake with vanilla bean frosting, pain au chocolat, and Szechuan-cucumber and blackberry-sage ganache-filled pralines.

“We have been helping many companies who quickly removed partially hydrogenated oils but are now seeking improved solutions,” Mr. Thomas said. “We are proud to offer the industry value-adding solutions and forward-thinking innovation so that together we can create finished product that consumers will love.”