Topping off trans-fat reduction

by Jeff Gelski
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California restaurants often lead in culinary innovation. This year their creative efforts face a deadline. How do they make the highest quality baked foods — think fluffy, frosty and tasty — without artificial trans fats?

A ban on artificial trans fat in California’s food facilities went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, but the bakers received a reprieve. For the first year only, the trans-fat ban does not apply to oil, shortening or margarine used to deep fry yeast or cake batter. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, no food containing artificial trans fat may be stored, distributed, served by or used in the preparation of any food within a food facility in California. This prohibition also applies to the deep frying of yeast dough or cake batter.

“It doesn’t impact the small bakeries and regional bakeries just yet,” said Jim Doucet, manager of an emulsifier innovation center for Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas. “They got a one-year reprieve.”

The one-year delay came because of trans-fat problems specific to baked foods.

“The more difficult applications are really more in the bakery field, those that are higher in fat or ask for a very distinct function from the fat,” said Lynne Morehart, technical service manager for Cargill Oils & Shortenings. “Pastries are a tough one. Cakes are a tough one from the frosting perspective.”

The fat and the emulsifiers within the fat will determine whether a product has a good volume of air and a fluffy character, she said. The fat affects whether it’s easy to decorate a frosting. If a frosting is too soft, it may not hold a decoration. If it is too hard, it cracks when a decoration is added.

Besides substitutions of fats and oils, other practices may affect the quality of baked foods free of trans fat. Ms. Morehart said bakeries should examine their entire system. How they add ingredients into mixing bowls may have an effect on product quality, as will how they control the temperature of ingredients being stored. Bakers also may experiment with mixing time and potentially the length of time a product is in the oven.

Stronger, sturdier packaging might prevent harm to trans-fat-free baked foods, Ms. Morehart said. When distributing products, bakers may want more control over transportation temperatures.

The type of baked food will help determine what oils and oil blends are used in creating baked foods free of trans fat.

“It is my understanding it really is a case-by-case basis,” said Daniel Conway, a spokesperson for the California Restaurant Association, Sacramento. “There really is a pretty broad sweep of substitutes being used.”

Cargill uses such oils as canola oil and hydrogenated cottonseed oil in its Clear Valley all-purpose shortening.

Shortenings in the EsSence line from AarhusKarlshamn USA Inc., Port Newark, N.J., are based on a blend of a liquid oil of a customer’s choice and a proprietary hardstock derived from palm and palm kernel oils. Canola, soybean, sunflower or safflower oils may be used in the blend. The brand shortenings are trans-free, non-hydrogenated and low in saturated fat.

Caravan Ingredients offers Trancendim, a technology for diglycerides with applications for no-trans shortenings. The Trancendim line produces no-trans products that perform well in bakery applications, including cakes, cookies, Danish, icing, frying, puffed pastries and laminated products.

Palm oil, which is free of artificial trans fats, offers functional benefits in many baked foods. Palm oil contains about 50% saturated fat, and many bakers seek to reduce saturated fat content since the American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats people eat to less than 7% of total daily calories.

Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., sticks up for palm oil’s health in a report, “Recent Developments in Saturated Fat Nutrition.” The report pointed to a Harvard School of Public Health study that appeared in 2005 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. A graph in the study showed increasing intake of saturated fat had no effect on heart disease, neither increasing nor decreasing risk, according to the Loders Croklaan report.

Besides a high level of saturated fat, palm oil may give fruity notes to some applications, and it may have trouble functioning at low temperatures, Mr. Doucet said.

Some New York City restaurants switched to palm oil in recent years. The phase-out of artificial trans fats in restaurant foods in that city was completed in 2008.

Manufacturers of retail products are not through experimenting in the reduction of trans fat either, Mr. Doucet said. While they may have rid their products of trans fat, now they are reformulating the products for various reasons. They are working on reducing saturated fat content and solving such product kinks as flavor and mouthfeel issues, he said.

Canada is taking steps on trans fat reduction. As of Sept. 30, 2009, all food service establishments in British Columbia are required to limit the amount of trans fats in menu items. The regulation restricts the amount of trans fat content of oils and spreadable margarines to 2% of total fat and restricts trans fat content of all other foods to 5% of total fat content of the food.

Mr. Doucet said he thinks the food industry should be wary of more trans-fat regulations.

“It’s hard to say from a food manufacturer’s perspective,” he said. “It just ‘buckle up.’ You don’t know where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen.”

Eliminating a byproduct of trans fat removal

ST. PAUL, MINN. — Ecolab Inc. has developed a cleaning product designed to help food manufacturers remove zero trans fat food oil residue from processing equipment and surfaces. The product, Exelerate ZTF, is a gelled application that works by breaking down difficult polymerized oil soils on fryers, ovens, mixers and other plant surfaces. The gel clings to equipment and surfaces to dissolve zero trans fat soils, making it easier to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as fryer hood vents, walls, ceilings and plant catwalks.

“As the use of zero trans fat oils has rapidly increased, removal of cooked-on oil from processing equipment has proven to be a time-consuming and difficult challenge for food processors,” said Timothy P. Mulhere, Ecolab’s senior vice-president and general manager for Food & Beverage North America division.

The company said it is the first product to address the emerging issue of cleaning after the use of zero trans fat oil versus traditional oils used by food manufacturers.

Ecolab said it developed the product to address the unexpected consequence of using zero trans fat oils in food processing. As the oils break down, processing equipment and environmental surfaces may become coated with a sticky, varnish like coating. The company said the residues are difficult to clean using traditional methods and may pose food safety and worker safety issues.

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