Adapting to Less Trans and Saturated Fat

Lynne Morehart

Lynne Morehart
Technical Services Manager
Cargill Oils and Shortenings

Since 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring manufacturers to list trans fats on their labels, and consumers are using that information when making buying decisions.  Today, consumers are considering both trans and saturated fat levels when deciding to buy food products.

Fifty-six percent of consumers say they limit or avoid trans fats and, when buying food, 55% consider saturated fat and 66% factor in the Nutrition Facts label, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation's 2012 Food & Health Survey.

As a country, we are experiencing a move away from unhealthy fats in the food supply. For example, Walmart has committed to removing industrially produced trans fat in all packaged foods by 2015.

The National School Lunch and Breakfast programs require trans fat to be 0 grams per serving and saturated fat must be limited to less than 10% of all calories based on an average over the week. 

To remain competitive, many food manufacturers will have to adapt their products. The best way to do that depends on the product and the manufacturer's target fat goals. It also depends upon what the consumer wants to buy. At Cargill, we take our customers through a decision algorithm and then match that against our oils and shortenings portfolio.

For example, a manufacturer with an application requiring a solid fat (e.g., frosting, cookies, doughnuts) needs to decide whether palm oil—which is solid at room temperature and contains no trans fat from hydrogenation, but is 50% saturated fat—is acceptable from an ingredient listing perspective. If it is, our Trans Advantage® P-100 NH Palm Shortening will fill the bill.

However, if a food maker is okay with listing a hydrogenated fat on the label as long as it contains no trans fat per serving because it’s a fully-hydrogenated fat, our TransEnd™ All Purpose Shortening (soybean and hydrogenated soybean oil or interesterified soybean oil) might be a good fit. The saturated fat content is 44%—slightly less than that of palm oil at 50% saturated fat, and using it would keep the word “palm” off the ingredient listing.

We also have shortening solutions that provide zero trans fat and lower saturated fat levels.  For instance, Trans Advantage® PN-110 Shortening, a mixture of palm and canola oil, contains zero grams trans fat per serving and 39% saturated fat. And finally, Clear Valley® All-Purpose Shortening, which contains zero grams trans fat per serving and 22% saturated fat compared to palm oil is a mixture of canola oil and hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Changing fat systems typically requires handling and formulation changes. Fortunately, Cargill has a broad range of technical expertise, including experience with systems, to make the switch from one type of fat to another more convenient and more cost-effective.

The goals of the fat switch are up to the manufacturer. Leave the rest up to us.   

Lynne Morehart is Technical Services Manager of Cargill Oils and Shortenings. She has been with the company for 20 of her 34 years in the industry.