Trans Fat Replacement – What Remains?

Bob Wainwright
Bob Wainwright
Technical Services Director
Cargill Dressings, Sauces & Oils

Since January 1, 2006, the FDA has required that foods under their jurisdiction list trans fat content on the Nutrition Facts panel.  The Agency indicated that this decision was made to help consumers make heart healthy choices.  The final rule mandating this revision discussed scientific evidence that showed dietary trans fat from partial hydrogenation of oils and fats increases LDL “bad” cholesterol and reduces HDL “good” cholesterol thereby increasing risk for coronary heart disease. 

Requiring trans fat labeling on food nutrition panels heightened awareness and encouraged food manufacturers to make changes.  To date, the food industry has successfully reformulated many products to eliminate or substantially reduce trans fats.  In a recently published paper, researchers estimated trans fat intake using NHANES data and concluded that the average estimated trans fat intake for adults has “decreased significantly” as a result of industry efforts since 2003. The authors cited a 71% estimated reduction from 4.6g trans fat per person per day to 1.3g trans fat per person per day.* 

Still, however, manufacturers are working to remove any remaining trans fat from their products. In fact, in a 2011 survey conducted with Cargill’s oil customers, 67% said that reducing trans fats is “very important” to them.  This is likely because 49% of consumers indicate that they try to limit or avoid trans fats when making purchasing decisions, according to International Food Information Council Foundation's 2012 Food & Health Survey.

Whatever products and foods that remain to be reformulated involve a complex mix of considerations such as product attributes, processing, shelf life, ingredient legend, nutritional content, economics and consumer acceptance.

Cargill offers a portfolio of products and services to help customers address what remains.  Trait enhanced oils can address shelf life concerns, a variety of structuring options (including palm, palm fractions and fully hydrogenated stocks) can be leveraged, and further performance tailoring is supported by interesterification. 

Circumstances might dictate a more holistic approach, including companion ingredients followed by performance testing of the new recipe.   Our broad ingredient portfolio and deep applications experience provide another level of support to “what remains.”

Bob Wainwright, technical services director for Cargill Dressings, Sauces & Oils, has been with Cargill for the last 15 of his 39 years in the industry.

*Doell D, Folmer D et al., Food Additives and Contaminants, 2012;29(6):861-874.