The Food and Drug Administration has issued a letter saying it has no questions about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for a new soybean oil product that delivers omega-3 fatty acid benefits. The Monsanto Co. and The Solae Co., both based in St. Louis, collaborated to develop the oil. It has an omega-3 fatty acid called stearidonic acid (SDA), which also may be metabolized in the body to form long chain fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), another form of an omega-3 fatty acid.

The GRAS status says the soybean oil with SDA may be used as an ingredient in baked foods and baking mixes, breakfast cereals and grains, cheeses, dairy product analogs, fats and oils, fish products, frozen dairy desserts and mixes, grain products and pastas, gravies and sauces, meat products, milk products, nuts and nut products, poultry products, processed fruit juices, processed vegetable products, puddings and fillings, snack foods, soft candy, and soups and soup mixes at levels that will provide 375 mg of SDA per serving.

"Evidence strongly supports that increased consumption of dietary omega-3 fatty acids could have major health benefits," said Eric Decker, a professor and the department head of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass.

The oil is obtained from a bioengineered soybean. The oil contains 15% to 30% SDA and 5% to 8% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Neither SDA nor GLA is found in conventional soybean oil. The SDA soybean oil also contains higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and palmitic acid than conventional soybean oil. It contains lower levels of oleic acid and linoleic acid. It is 14% to 18% saturated fat and has no trans fat.

SDA-enriched soybean oil with antioxidants and appropriate handling has been tested in a variety of food and beverage products that resulted in acceptable flavor characteristics and the required shelf life, according to Solae.

For more information, call (800) 325-7108.