The grain-based foods industry has made strides in removing partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from its products. The “icing on the cake,” or complete elimination from the U.S. food supply, may be yet to come, and it may involve icing. Donuts and microwave popcorn are still problematic, too. Oil blends and new oils entering the market are assisting in PHO-free formulating.

Using PHOs soon might be against the law. The Food and Drug Administration in the Federal Register of Nov. 8, 2013, said it tentatively had determined partially hydrogenated oils, a primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fat, are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in food. If the tentative determination is finalized, food manufacturers no longer would be permitted to sell PHOs, either directly or as an ingredient in products, without prior F.D.A. approval for use as a food additive.

The F.D.A. in 2003 estimated the mean adult intake of trans fats from products containing PHOs was 4.6 grams per day. The F.D.A. estimated by 2010 the mean trans fat intake for the U.S. population age 2 and older who ate one or more of the processed foods identified as containing PHOs to be 1.3 grams per person per day.

Despite such progress, the F.D.A.’s data showed products with PHOs and still on the market fall into two categories. Foods for which consumers have alternatives with lower levels of trans fat include cookies, baked foods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, frozen pies and shortening. Foods for which consumers have limited or no choice of alternatives include ready-to-use frostings and stick margarine.

Hard fat for icing

Replacing PHOs in frosting and icing almost certainly will require hard fats.

“You need some solids to make the icing,” said Dilip K. Nakhasi, director of innovation for St. Louis-based Bunge Oils, Inc. “Icing has a lot of sugar and water in there, so it has to build a crystal network.”

Palm oil is an option. AarhusKarlshamn USA, Inc., Edison, N.J., offers palm-based icing shortening products with a creamy, workable texture that prevents post-hardening and supports aeration, according to the company. The company’s Cisao line of bakery fats may be used in non-hydrogenated icings as well as non-hydrogenated shortenings, margarines, frying oils, pies, icings, biscuits, pastries and bakery specialties.

Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn., last year launched Flex Palm, which the company said allows palm oil to function more like partially hydrogenated shortenings. Flex Palm may work over a wide temperature range in cakes and icings.

Flex Palm involves a process called “functional crystallization,” which includes minimizing temperature variance until a minimum number of crystals required to stabilize the product is achieved.

Some liquid oils may be used in oil blends to replace PHOs in icings. Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, offers omega-9 fatty acid oils that replace the functionality of stability that PHOs brought, said Mary LaGuardia, market manager for the line of omega-9 fatty acid oils.

“Think of white icing or vanilla icing,” she said. “They have a very delicate flavor. You want to have an oil that has a very clean, neutral taste.”

The company’s omega-9 fatty acid oils are high in oleic acid and are sourced from canola and sunflower.

Plenish, a new high-oleic soybean oil, also might work in oil blends. When working with high-oleic soybean oil, formulators may need some hard fat to get the crystal network and the solids in certain applications, said Mr. Nakhasi, who is based at a Bunge Oil innovation center in Bradley, Ill.

Perfect for popcorn

Mr. Nakhasi expects success for Plenish in microwave popcorn.

“This would be perfect for removing PHOs from popcorn,” he said.

An oil blend combination of 95% high-oleic soybean oil and 5% hard fat might provide a PHO-free solution, he said.

Plenish oil has an oleic content of more than 75% and has 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil. Its low linolenic acid content of less than 3% provides for greater stability.

DuPont Pioneer, Johnston, Iowa, offers Plenish soybeans and has contracted with companies that offer oils, such as Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill and Perdue AgriBusiness. Food companies are testing Plenish oil this year. Food products with high-oleic soybean oil may enter the market next year, Mr. Nakhasi said.

Omega-9 fatty acid oils already have had success in microwave popcorn, Ms. LaGuardia said.

“The challenge of using a liquid oil in a microwave application is, that to have a liquid oil present, it may make the bag oily and stained,” she said.

While microwave popcorn is heated quickly, it cools as people eat, she added. A waxy taste at that time is undesirable.

Omega-9 fatty acid oils may work in combination with a stable fat. Weaver Popcorn Co., Van Buren, Ind., used omega-9 fatty acid oils from Dow AgroSciences to create popcorn that qualified for the American Heart Association’s Heart Check mark. An extra butter variety of the popcorn had 11 grams of fat, including 2 grams of saturated fat, which compared to a leading competitor that had 25 grams of fat, including 12 grams of saturated fat. Because the omega-9 fatty acid oil had a low melting point, the butter flavor spread evenly throughout the bag of popcorn, according to Dow AgroSciences.

Donut developments

IOI Loders Croklaan, which has a North American office in Channahon, Ill., showed how PHOs may be removed from donuts at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in June in New Orleans. The company partnered with a New Orleans donut shop to provide fresh donuts every day, said Shellie Kramer, marketing manager for Loders Croklaan. They were fried with a SansTrans donut fry line, which includes palm oil and is free of trans fat and partial hydrogenation.

“Throughout the next year, IOI Loders Croklaan will be offering a course in PHO replacement, held on-site in our creative studio,” she said. “At I.F.T. we surveyed attendees about their challenges and concerns when doing the R.&D. work needed to replace PHOs and will use that information to guide the topics for our course.”

The company also launched a web site specifically for PHO-free ingredients at

Corbion Caravan, Lenexa, Kas., has shown how ingredients in its Trancendim portfolio may be used to create donuts with 5 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat per 55-gram donut. The Trancendim range consists of distilled diglycerides used to replace hydrogenated hard-stocks. It’s possible to eliminate the word “hydrogenated” on ingredient declarations when using Trancendim.

High-oleic soybean oil may play a role in donuts and other applications.
“There are opportunities to add solids to high-oleic soybean oil through blending with palm oil, palm fractions or fully hydrogenated soybean oil (a low trans solution),” said Michelle Peitz, technical sales representative for ADM Oils in Decatur, Ill. “ADM’s ability to further modify through enzymatic interesterification provides a very stable, highly functional shortening that can mimic a partially hydrogenated shortening.”

The UltraBlends line of ingredients from Bunge also involves an enzymatic process. UltraBlends 415 donut frying shortening is an example.

When removing PHOs, formulators should figure out whether they need a hard fat, a liquid oil or a blend of the two.

“Applications where a ‘light’ partial hydro was used or a partially hydrogenated winterized oil was used could benefit from the use of a high-oleic soybean oil,” Ms. Peitz said. “High-oleic soybean oil can be used in a host of applications where stability is needed but solids are not required for performance. This could be for frying, pan release systems or spray oil in crackers and snack foods.”

Using high-oleic oil in other applications that feature a sharp melting partially hydrogenated oil might be more difficult. The applications could include donuts, confectionery and icings.

“However, through blending or enzymatic interesterification, the potential to develop similar functionality exists,” she said.

Frying tests

Mr. Nakhasi detailed recent frying tests during a June 24 presentation at the I.F.T. event. One 10-day food service fry test compared high-oleic soybean oil and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. The high-oleic soybean oil maintained high oxidative stability for shelf life and developed less polymer, which has been shown to lead to the darkening of the oil’s color.

Mr. Nakhasi added a spray oil test on crackers and cereal found the high-oleic soybean oil resisted oxidation for prolonged shelf life. The products were stored for up to six months at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Analytical and sensory testing occurred at the beginning of storage, after 8 weeks, after 12 weeks and after 24 weeks.

Ms. LaGuardia said omega-9 fatty acid oil may be sprayed on top of crackers to add crispiness and sheen. The oil allows for spices and seasonings to adhere to the product, too.

An oil blend launched by Cargill at the I.F.T. event potentially may be used in the elimination of PHOs. IngreVita is a blend of high-oleic canola oil, fish oil and proprietary antioxidants. It delivers two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“IngreVita EPA/DHA omega-3 oil can be formulated to replace any oil in a product application,” said Kristine Sanschagrin, marketing manager, specialty seeds and oils for Minneapolis-based Cargill. “Initially, we recommend replacing a gram for a gram as a baseline. One gram of IngreVita offers our customers the potential to label with 32 mg of EPA/DHA per serving of their product. If the PHO is used for plasticity purposes, IngreVita is a liquid oil and therefore may not be as successful.”