Progress in oils comes through health claim, sustainability actions
Bunge makes moves in soybean oil and palm oil.

KANSAS CITY — Two types of cooking oils used frequently in baked foods made progress in different areas this year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified health claim for soybean oil while palm oil suppliers advanced their sustainability standards. Bunge Ltd., White Plains, N.Y., played a part in both areas.

St. Louis-based Bunge North America, the North American arm of Bunge Ltd., said in July that the F.D.A. had approved its petition for a qualified health claim linking consumption of soybean oil to reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Grain-based foods manufacturers wanting to use the claim should pay close attention to the amount of saturated fats in their products and the type of soybean oil they are using.

“Soybean oil can be used for baked foods, but if adding more hard fat (i.e., saturates) for structuring, and wanting to make a heart health claim, developers just need to stay aware of the qualifiers, such as saturated fat level and the presence of one of six positive nutrients,” said Mark Stavro, Ph.D., senior director of marketing for Bunge North America.

Saturated fat in a product should be 4 grams or less per reference amounts customarily consumed (RACC) for the product to use the claim. Other restrictions are no more than 1 gram of trans fat per RACC, 20 mg or less of cholesterol per RACC and 480 mg or less of sodium per RACC. The product also should be a good source of one of six nutrients as specified in the F.D.A.’s general health claim regulations.

“The cooking oil market is extremely important for U.S. soybean farmers, and the newly approved health claim will enable manufacturers of soybean oil to communicate to consumers about the heart-healthy benefits of soybean oil,” said Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association, St. Louis, and a farmer from Roseville, Ill. “As we compete within the market against other cooking oils, having F.D.A. recognize the ability of soybean oil to provide a superior omega-3 fatty acid profile while also lowering bad cholesterol levels is a benefit to consumers and to producers alike.”

Food and menu items must contain at least 5 grams of soybean oil per serving to qualify for the claim.

“A number of baked goods use at least 5 grams of fat per serving of product,” Dr. Stavro said.

Bunge pointed to American Heart Association data showing 71 million U.S. adults have high L.D.L. cholesterol and 15.5 million have coronary heart disease. Soybean oil contains 58% polyunsaturated fat (52% omega-6 fatty acid and 6% omega-3 fatty acid). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends people should aim to shift food choices from those high in saturated fats to those high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

The F.D.A. qualified health claim may state: “Supportive but not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1½ tablespoons (20.5 grams) daily of soybean oil, which contains unsaturated fat, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. To achieve this possible benefit, soybean oil is to replace saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains [x] grams of soybean oil.”

The F.D.A. claim does not apply to high-oleic soybean oil, which has a different fatty acid profile, according to Bunge.

“Although the F.D.A.’s qualified health claim applies to conventional soybean oil, if a product contains a blend of high-oleic soybean oil and conventional soybean oil and meets F.D.A.’s criteria, the claim can be used on the product,” said Richard Galloway, a consultant for Qualisoy, Chesterfield, Mo., an independent, third-party collaboration among the soybean industry.

High-oleic soybean oil contains 0 grams of trans fat per serving as well as lower saturated fat and three times the amount of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids when compared to conventional soybean oil, according to Qualisoy. The oil’s traits lead to longer shelf life in food products.

“Acreage planted to high-oleic soybeans increased by 40% this year, and a further 40% expansion is expected for 2018,” Mr. Galloway said. “Supplies of high-oleic soybean oil should top 1 billion lbs by 2020.”

A stake in Loders Croklaan

Bunge will expand its presence in palm oil after announcing Sept. 12 that it has agreed to acquire a 70% ownership interest in IOI Loders Croklaan from IOI Corp Berhad for $946 million (see story on Page 14). The Loders Croklaan portfolio includes a full range of products derived from palm oil and other tropical oils.

“The baking segment is growing at 3%, and the use of oil shortenings and margarines produced by both Bunge and Loders are the key ingredients for bread making, croissants, biscuits, muffins, waffles, cookies, puff pastries, crusts and pizza dough,” said Soren W. Schroder, chief executive officer and director of Bunge Ltd. “Soy, sun, canola and tropical oils are the typical raw materials processed and blended for a range of specific applications.

“Loders is very established in the developed markets, and Bunge (is) well-placed for growth in emerging markets, especially Latin America and India. Pastry fillings and coatings also require a variety of shortenings and cocoa butter equivalents made from the combination of shea butter and palm fractions in which Loders is a leader.”

Sustainability in the past has been an issue for the IOI Group. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2016 suspended the certificates of the IOI Group after receiving complaints against three IOI Group subsidiaries. The complaints revolved around such issues as substandard reviews and land clearing without plantation business permits. The R.S.P.O. in August 2016 lifted the suspension.

The IOI Group and IOI Loders Croklaan both have made progress on sustainable palm oil in 2017. Loders Croklaan said 100% of its palm oil is traceable to the mill and 29% is traceable to the plantation.

Bunge also keeps track of its sustainability and traceability practices. The company has achieved 92% global traceability to the mill and 14% traceability to the plantation.

“Our sustainability policies are mostly overlapping,” Mr. Schroder said of Bunge and Loders Croklaan. “Loders or IOI has gone through a significant revamp of their policy in recent months, and we are both committed to capability back to the mill and to the plantation and have very clearly stated objectives around deforestations, human rights, etc. …”

The food industry is moving toward traceable and sustainable palm oil, he said.

“The combined company (Bunge and Loders Crokaan) would have in excess of 90% traceable supply to the mill at the moment, and that will probably move toward 100% in very short order,” he said.