How Food Processors Removed Trans Fats Ahead of Deadline

Here's how several processors removed trans fats before the Jan. 1 labeling deadline.

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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Formulators of cereals and energy bars, despite the "healthy" connotation of their products, often use TFAs for enhanced taste and adhesion of the ingredients. Candy makers create chocolate-based treats with TFAs for shelf-life stability and smooth, creamy textures. Product developers even have used TFAs in flavored coffees, nondairy creamers, whipped toppings, dips, gravy mixes and salad dressings to emulsify and create structure.

No one said it would be easy. Yet most food processors wanted to reformulate rather than wear the label declaration. Some completed their work far in advance of the Jan. 1 labeling deadline.

How we did it

Unilever USA, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., successfully removed TFAs from Shedd's Spread Country Crock, Country Crock Churn Style, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!, Promise, Take Control and Brummel & Brown spreads, while also reducing fat and saturated fat. For ConAgra, removing TFAs from tub margarine spreads was easy, but removing them from stick margarine "continues to be challenging," according to Pelloso.

The greatest challenge for Kellogg Co. (www.kelloggs.com/us), Battle Creek, Mich., was "maintaining flavor and texture and still delivering the taste to their consumers' expectations," according to John Kepplinger, senior director of applied technology. That goes for Kellogg's Keebler cookies, Pop-Tarts toaster pastries, Eggo waffles, Cheez-It crackers, Nutri-Grain breakfast bars and Rice Krispies cereal.

 

Removing trans fats: Golden Oreo cookies
Kraft's Golden Oreo Original and Golden Uh-Oh Oreo extensions have been trans fat-free since their debuts nearly two years ago, but the classic Oreo still had trans fats as of the Jan. 1 label deadline.

Removing trans fats: Golden Uh-Oh Oreo cookies

Kepplinger credits ingredient suppliers for thorough evaluation of alternatives for maintaining taste, creating a balanced nutritional profile, equivalent shelf life and processing efficiencies while minimizing changes. "Very few of the options could satisfy all of the criteria; often the best solution for one product would not work for another," he says.

Kellogg's TFA removal entailed blending multiple ingredients, thus adding complexity and changing the manufacturing process significantly. Kellogg will pioneer the use of Vistive oil made from a genetically engineered low-linolenic soybean developed by Monsanto Co., St. Louis. The shortfalls of Vistive - not quite enough shelf-stability and requiring some hydrogenation for stability - will be made up with Nutrium, another low-linolenic soybean oil manufactured from genetically engineered soybeans by Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance, Des Moines, Iowa. Kellogg plans to begin using Nutrium in 2007.

As for how Kellogg will convey the health benefits to consumers, Kepplinger is cautiously pragmatic: "Kellogg has a long history of providing educational and nutrition information about our products. Because we are still early in the planning process, it's too soon to provide specifics around our plans around the new low-lin [-olenic] products."

Corn oil, stable and naturally low-linolenic, was a simple switch for Frito-Lay. Products fried in corn oil have a nice flavor and are only slightly more expensive. Unsaturated oils for deep-frying batch applications (such as kettle-style chips) are stressed even more than in continuous standard industrial frying operations. Utz Quality Foods, Hanover, Pa., selected peanut oil for its distinct flavor and added crispness for its TFA-free kettle-cooked potato chips.

Frito-Lay (Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos), Proctor & Gamble (Pringles), Pepperidge Farm (Goldfish) and many other snack food companies are using NuSun as their TFA-free alternative, according to Brady Vick, research leader at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Sunflower Research Unit, Fargo, N.D., which developed the oil. NuSun also is the key to J.M. Smucker Co.'s TFA-free Crisco.

NuSun is being refined and marketed by Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Cargill Inc., Humko/ACH and other regional processors. Frying operations value NuSun, a mid-oleic sunflower oil (approximately 65 percent oleic acid), for its high stability, near-zero (less than 0.5 percent) linolenic content and healthful properties since it does not require hydrogenation.

There is at least one iconic food product that did not meet the Jan. 1 deadline - but the reason may be stocks of old labels and product rather than reformulation challenges. David Tovar, Kraft's director of corporate affairs, told the hometown Chicago Tribune reformulated Oreos would be produced as of Jan. 1, but they may not make it into stores, or at least wear their trans-free labels, "for weeks or months."

Kraft apparently spent more than two years - including 30,000 man-hours and 125 plant trials - to reformulate the world's most popular cookie. The company reportedly is using highly specialized genetically modified canola oil blended with tropical palm oil with high saturated fat content for hardening and shelf life attributes. The changeover also apparently is requiring new production equipment to blend and store the new oils, but the end result should be a TFA-free Oreo indistinguishable from the original.

Nearly two years ago, Kraft unveiled zero-trans line extensions Golden Oreo Original and Golden Uh-Oh Oreo, but those were radically different from the classic Oreo.

Simply Potatoes refrigerated mashed potatoes from Michael Foods, Minnetonka, Minn., still delivers as much as 5g of saturated fat and 1g of TFA in each serving - a little puzzling considering the company also offers Country Style Mashed Potatoes, which only contains 1.5g of fat and zero TFA.

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