Hydrogenation was a solution in the early 1900s to the food industry’s need for a more stable and economical alternative to lard and tallow. The discovery that controlling the extent of hydrogenation could control the composition and the physical properties of the hydrogenated material led to the evolution of hydrogenated fats custom-tailored to various applications. For nearly a century, consumers enjoyed the benefits: affordable, tasty, extended shelf-life foods with enhanced textures.
|NOTE TO PLANT OPS
Talk with the R&D staff during the search for a trans fat replacer. Make sure the replacement fat or oil doesn’t require additional blending steps â€¦ or equipment, for that matter. One of the benefits of hydrogenation and fats in general is they make food materials soft and malleable, even at room temperatures. Any change in that malleability will impact machinery and processing steps.
The quest for hydrogenation alternatives arose when medical research discovered the side effects of trans fats, which are by-products of hydrogenation.
The current drive to minimize consumption and the regulations to declare their levels on product labels have further motivated the food industry to seek viable alternatives.
Replacing or reducing trans fats entails from a formulation standpoint the replacement of specific amounts of specific components of fats. This may be achieved by one or more of the following: finding new oil sources, biotechnological methods, enzymatic conversion or physical blending of naturally saturated fats with unsaturated, non-hydrogenated oils. All seek to create the desired functionality without negatively impacting the nutritional and flavor characteristics. Several factors have limited the application of many of these methods.
Naturally trans fat-free
The search for new oil sources has prompted a new look at what canola, safflower and palm oils have to offer. Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening (www.spectrumorganic.com), Petaluma, Calif., claims to be the first all-vegetable shortening free of hydrogenated oils and trans fats available in retail stores. The products have been available since 2000 but gained attention in the marketplace only recently.
|Healthful by nature
Canola--As agri-food companies reformulate their products to reduce or eliminate trans fats, canola oil is well positioned as a replacement. "High oleic canola oils for the processing industry are responses to the demands of health professionals and consumers to reduce trans fats in processed food products," according to Penny Mah, senior trade director, Agriculture & Food Branch, Alberta Economic Development (AED). Mark Norris, AED minister, points out, "Canadian producers are working hard to increase awareness of the health benefits of canola oil and to develop new products for domestic and international markets."
Canola oil comes from canola seed â€“ a seed that was developed using traditional plant breeding methods to remove undesirable qualities in rapeseed. Canola oil is as different from rapeseed oil as olive oil is from corn oil.
Canola oil fatty acid composition is consistent with recommendations aimed at reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet. Canola oil is low in saturated fatty acids (less than 7 percent of the total), very high in oleic acids (61 percent), and intermediate in polyunsaturated fatty acids (32 percent) with a good balance between the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Olive oil-- It took a while for Americans to appreciate the nutritional value of olive oil. Now, the FDA is considering a qualified health claim for the oil, ironically before a similar designation is approved in Europe.
Of the three petitions filed for qualified health claims, two pertain to fats and oils â€“ one for olive oil and the other for omega-3 fish oils. The olive oil petition, filed by the Olive Oil Assn., was accompanied by a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and included a summary of some 70 clinical trials.
The basic claim is that when olive oil is part of a diet that’s low in unsaturated fat, it helps reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, particularly when it replaces saturated fats. Replacing a high-carb/low-fat diet with a moderate-fat diet including olive oil results in positive effect on total and LDL cholesterol. Several studies have shown that olive oil and monounsaturated fatty acids lower lipid levels in serum without the susceptibility to oxidation.
When Crisco, synonymous with trans fat, announced its launch of a trans fat-free product recently, Spectrum president/CEO Neil Blomquist publicly indicated his pleasure "in seeing such a mainstream icon as Crisco make a first step toward a more natural product." He added, "Now we’d like to encourage all producers of vegetable-based shortenings and spreads to follow this important new step in removing trans fats entirely from their product lines."
Aromatic Inc. (www.aromatic.se), Westport, Conn., emulsifies liquid vegetable oils with natural plant extracts to produce the "shortening" functionality of hydrogenated fats, according to Pam Galvin, director of sales and marketing. Aromatic Alpha-gel 305 and CakeGel are particularly economical solutions for wholesale bread and cake bakers and are key ingredients in trans fat-free hamburger buns for McDonald’s.