Matching partial hydrogenation’s performance

by Jeff Gelski
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The partial hydrogenation of oils mostly may be in the past, but exhibitors at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition still brought up the term July 13-16 in Chicago.

No, they did not seek a return to the times when partially hydrogenating oils led to trans fats in products, including shortenings. Instead, the I.F.T. exhibitors showed how shortenings of today may match the functionality of the old shortenings with partial hydrogenation.

“It’s almost like back to the future,” said Roger Daniels, vice-president of research, development and innovation at Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn. “We want partial hydro performance without partial hydro.”

Stratas Foods launched Flex Palm, a process that allows palm oil, which has 0 grams of trans fat, to perform more like partially hydrogenated shortenings. Functional crystallization in the process makes certain the least amount of crystals is formed as possible to keep the product together. Large crystal formulations in shortening make for a harder product, which over time will jeopardize its functionality.

Mr. Daniels called Flex Palm a “true drop-in” for any baker. He said benefits on the manufacturing floor include making sure the shortening is neither too stiff nor too loose. Bakers may avoid problems such as lumps in the dough or tears that occur when machining dough.

According to Stratas Foods, Flex Palm creates a creamy, buttery-type consistency, has a wider working functional range and offers more consistency cube to cube and lot to lot. The Flex Palm melting profile is broader than typical palm shortening. Flex Palm sets sooner and stays stable longer.

Also at the I.F.T. event, IOI Loders Croklaan Americas, Channahon, Ill., promoted its SansTrans cake shortenings based on palm oil with added emulsifiers for enhanced aeration. The range of functionality in SansTrans cake shortenings matches the performance of partially hydrogenated products, according to IOI Loders Croklaan, which offered cake pops made with SansTrans cake shortenings at its I.F.T. booth.

Food formulators began turning away from partially hydrogenated shortenings, and the resulting trans fat, about a decade ago when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would begin to mandate the listing of trans fat on Nutrition Facts panels. The mandate went into effect on Jan. 1, 2006.

Trans fat raises the level of L.D.L. or “bad” cholesterol and lowers the level of H.D.L. or “good” cholesterol. The detrimental effects of industrial trans fats on heart health are beyond dispute, according to a review from Wageningen University in The Netherlands and appearing on-line March 27 of this year in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Changes in the formulations of foods, labeling of food products and actions from governments have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the intake of trans fatty acids from industrial sources,” the review said. “The intake can be further decreased if industrial trans fats are avoided in the preparation of fried foods and bakery shortenings.”

According to the Dallas-based American Heart Association, people should limit consumption of saturated fats to less than 7% of daily calories and limit consumption of trans fats to less than 1% of daily calories.

According to the study “Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition 2013” from the St. Louis-based United Soybean Board, 22% of Americans think saturated fat is healthier than trans fat while 17% think trans fat is healthier and 33% think they are nutritionally about equal. The percentages have changed since the 2006 F.D.A. mandate went into effect. In 2007, 42% of Americans thought saturated fat was healthier and 16% thought trans fat was healthier.

Forty-nine per cent of Americans say they are avoiding or limiting trans fat and 48% say they are avoiding or limiting saturated fats, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2013 Food & Health Survey.

Palm oil, when used in shortenings, has no trans fat, but palm oil is typically about 50% saturated fat, said Bob Wainwright, technical director of the oils and shortenings group for Cargill and based in Charlotte, N.C.

Recent shortening innovations have focused on the elimination of trans fat and the reduction of saturated fats.

Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas., offers Trancendim, a zero-trans, reduced-saturates alternative in which mono- and diglycerides are used to replace hydrogenated hard-stocks for structuring fats and oils. Trancendim improves crystallization properties, according to Caravan, and it eliminates the word hydrogenated on ingredient declarations.

Bunge offers zero trans fat shortening systems that remove “hydrogenation” from product labels. The system uses non-hydrogenated palm oil. Under its UltraBlends brand, Bunge also offers an enzymatic process that delivers a trans fat-free solution while optimizing saturates without partial hydrogenation as well as a blend of two or more technologies designed to meet specific customer needs.

Mr. Wainwright said Cargill offers Clear Valley all-purpose shortening with canola oil and fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil. The shortening has no trans fat and is about 20% saturated fat. Canola oil alone is about 7% saturated fat.

“There has been substantial progress as it relates to finding functional, cost-effective alternatives to traditional partial hydrogenation,” Mr. Wainwright said.

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