The Indianapolis-based biotech subsidiary of chemical giant Dow Chemical said its Natreon canola oil, crushed from the high yield Nexera seed, is a 'naturally stable alternative to partially hydrogenated oils'.
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Common in a range of food products - biscuits, chips, doughnuts, crackers - the hydrogenated vegetable fat is used by food processors because it is solid at room temperature and has a longer shelf life.
But research suggests that trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, causing the arteries to become more rigid and clogged. An increase in LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease. As a result, the food industry is gradually slicing out their use as more consumers look for alternative products and in the US food manufacturers will have to label any TFA content from January 2006. Europe has yet to impose such rules, but pressure is building from consumer-led organisations.
Nestle, the leading food company in the world, recently announced that its priority was to reduce the addition of TFAs in food products: "We are looking to reduce the content by the end of the year," the Swiss firm said to FoodNavigator.com, confirming that new formulations are 'in the pipeline.'
Nestlé joins a raft of food makers - North American for the most part - that have already cut the trans-fat content. Kraft foods said it had launched a trans-fat-free version of its iconic Oreo biscuit. Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, removed the TFAs from its snack product Doritos last year and soup giant Campbells announced in February that its Goldfish crackers, sold through the company's Pepperidge Farm unit, would become trans fat-free.
Replacing the role of a partially hydrogenated fat in terms of aerating, emulsifying, lubricating and providing textural, structural and flavour characteristics is a challenge for food developers.
Increasing numbers of ingredients suppliers are rolling out replacements for the TFAs to meet the market demand. Earlier this year, Danish ingredients firm Danisco claimed its emulsifier/oil blends fitted the bill.
"These emulsifier blends with mixtures of non-hydrogenated oil offer the same properties as a partially hydrogenated shortening in most systems," said Jim Doucet, technical manager, emulsifiers at Danisco.
Dutch nutritional oils and fats firm Loders Croklaan said it was looking to target market opportunities in the trans free market through its palm oil based ingredients, and is currently constructing a major new production plant in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
US oil giant ADM has pushed out the NovaLipid portfolio that includes naturally stable oils, tropical oils, blended oils, and enzyme inter-esterified shortenings and margarines to provide alternatives in various food applications.
Dow AgroSciences with sales of $3 billion (€2.4bn) said today that its non-GMO Natreon canola oil, produced under identity preserved systems, has more than 70 per cent monounsaturated fat and a 'higher omega-3 polyunsaturated fat content than most of the partially hydrogenated oils it can replace'.
This year the firm launched high yielding Nexera canola varieties to provide sufficient seeds for large-scale production of its new oil.