Those involved in the grain-based foods industry may have earned the right to take a deep breath. They just spent a good part of this decade finding ways to reduce and eliminate trans fat from their products. But it’s still no time to rest. The coming decade should bring other challenges in fats and oils. Solutions for reducing saturated fat already have appeared. Research geared to increasing healthy omega-3 fatty acid content in products is under way.

"For the most part, the conversion out of trans fat is entering the last stage," said Scott Erickson, marketing manager for Cargill Oils & Shortenings, Minneapolis. "The next big thing in public health is around saturated fat and calories."

David Dzisiak, commercial leader for the oils group for Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C., Indianapolis, added, "In 2005, the hot topic really was trans fat."

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended people consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans-fatty acids. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans may focus even more on individual fatty acids, such as the need to decrease consumption of trans fats and saturated fats, said Eric J. Hentges, director of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, when he spoke at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in June in Anaheim, Calif.

Jim Doucet, manager, emulsifiers, for Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas., said most of the industry already has formulated away from partially hydrogenated fats such as trans fats, but some bakers still may need to do so.

"For certain parts of the industry, mainly in-store or regional bakeries that chose to continue using partially hydrogenated fat, we believe that trans-fat removal or reduction will be a top concern as many municipalities and states invoke stricter trans-fat removal legislation," he said. "As an example, in 2010 California will require no trans-fat for baked goods."

Many manufacturers reduced or eliminated trans fat by turning to palm and/or palm fractions, Mr. Doucet said. Those solutions may have led to an increase in saturated fat. In response, Caravan Ingredients has introduced Trancendim.

"Our effort here would be to market Trancendim functionally as a structuring component in the more nutritional fully refined oils such as soybean, sunflower and canola along with the advantages from a labeling perspective," Mr. Doucet said. "Trancendim also allows for a reduction in saturated fats."

He added Trancendim may be combined with nutritional-based monounsaturated oils such as canola, NuSun sunflower, high-oleic soybean oil and/or polyunsaturated oil such as soybean oil and corn oil.

Caravan Ingredients has developed a cookie prototype with Trancendim that has no trans fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 4 grams of monounsaturated fat per 56-gram serving. That cookie compares with a cookie that includes palm-based liquid shortening that has no trans fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat.

Dow AgroSciences offers Omega 9 canola and sunflower oils that are about 75% monounsaturated fats and 7% saturated fats. Dow AgroSciences develops the oils from its Nexera canola and sunflower seeds, which are more than 70% oleic acid.

Since the Omega 9 oils are liquid oils, they do not work as well in baked foods, Mr. Dzisiak said, but the company works on trans-fat-free, low-saturate shortening systems, which may include fat more friendly to baked foods structure such as palmitic acid. Adding Omega 9 oils to the blends may reduce saturated fat 25% to 50%, Mr. Dzisiak said.

Omega 9 oils have been shown to work as a drop-in replacement frying oil, especially in food service. They may be used to take out trans fat in such frying applications as tortilla chips. Taco Bell and Arby’s are two of the chains that use Omega 9 oils. Since 2006, restaurants that have converted to Omega-9 oils have removed about 342 million lbs of trans fat and 137 million lbs of saturated fat from the North American diet, according to Dow AgroSciences.

Cargill will launch an extension of its Clear Valley line in a low-saturate canola oil, a high-stability oil with 4% to 4.5% saturated, or 25% less saturated fat than conventional canola oil. Mr. Erickson said the new canola oil should be available for customer testing by 2011 and 2012 and ready for the marketplace on larger scales by 2013.

Oleic acid content and zero trans fat already are benefits of canola oil. Clear Valley high-oleic canola oil benefits stability in frying and shelf-stable products, Mr. Erickson said.

"The key with oleic is, just because it is a higher level does not make it better," he said. "The key is matching it up with the application."

Cargill offers two different canola oils, each with a different level of oleic acid. One is used more in frying in such applications as donuts, potato chips and french fries. The other canola oil has a higher oleic acid level and works better for spray-on topical applications such as croutons, snack bars and cereals.

Cargill has opened a new specialty canola and research production center in Aberdeen, Sask., that is part of a Cargill research farm located near Cargill’s canola crush facility in Clavet, Sask.

Mr. Erickson said the Aberdeen center serves as an extension of an innovation center in Fort Collins, Colo., that was expanded two years ago. Plant varieties being researched in Fort Collins are about five to seven years away from commercialization, he said. Larger-scale tests will take place in Aberdeen. Yield and oil traits are "locked and loaded" when they are in Aberdeen, Mr. Erickson said. Plant varieties being researched there will be about two years away from commercialization.

Cargill is in discussions with Monsanto and Pioneer to have access to the new high-oleic soybean oils when they come to the market starting in 2013, Mr. Erickson said.

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, this year introduced Plenish as the brand name for the company’s high-oleic soybean oil trait. Pioneer is shooting for a limited introduction in the United States for 2010 planting. Along with 80% oleic acid content, the new soybean has less saturated fat and less palmitic acid than commodity soybean oil.

The Monsanto Co. and Solae L.L.C., both based in St. Louis, collaborated to develop a new soybean oil product that delivers omega-3 fatty acid benefits. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a letter saying it has no questions about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for 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.

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.

According to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on Nov. 16 in Orlando, Fla., oil from soybeans modified through biotechnology increased levels of EPA in red blood cells. Monsanto and Solae provided funding for this study.

"This soybean oil could be an effective alternative to fish oil as a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids," said William Harris, lead author of the study and professor of medicine at Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, S.D. "We know that giving pure EPA to people reduces their risk for heart disease. Presumably, if you gave this special soybean oil to people, you’d do the same thing — reduce heart attacks."

Soybeans already contain ALA, which the body converts to SDA, but the body converts SDA to EPA more effectively, resulting in more EPA per gram consumed.

Researchers developed the new soybean variety by inserting one gene from another plant and one from a fungus to allow the soybean plant to produce SDA.

One group received 15 grams of the SDA soybean oil, totaling one gram of regular soybean oil per day. A second group consumed 1 gram of EPA and 15 grams of commodity soybean oil. A control group received only commodity soybean oil. Levels of EPA rose 17.7% in the SDA group and 19.7% in the EPA group, both statistically significant changes.

"Our next step is to formulate this SDA soybean oil into food products such as breakfast bars, yogurts and salad dressings, and then do a study to see if it is absorbed by the body and converted to EPA," Dr. Harris said. "It should be, but you don’t know until you test it."

The food industry continues to study ways to increase omega-3 fatty acid content in products.

"It has some serious noise in the marketplace," Cargill’s Mr. Erickson said. "The industry is trying to determine the necessary levels in an oil and food product to maximize the health benefits. Obviously, with the health benefits of omega-3, it will continue to gain some traction."

Healthier fats and oils in general appear a good bet to gain traction in the grain-based foods industry.

"Health really is the driver in the food industry today," Mr. Dzisiak of Dow AgroSciences said. "It really doesn’t make sense to develop a whole grain product and then put in an oil or fat system that is full of bad fats."

Soybean oil traits in the pipeline

Qualisoy lists enhanced soybean traits that are the focus of research and development efforts. Qualisoy is a collaborative effort among the soybean industry to help market the development and availability of healthier soybeans and soy oil, reduce environmental impacts of livestock production through improved soybean meal, and improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. soybean industry.

Increased oleic — This trait will allow for extended use and heavy frying in baking;

Low-saturate — Could lead to heart-healthy dressings and spreads, low-fat products and light frying;

Increased omega-3 fatty acids — Holds potential for benefits for salad dressings, vegetable marinades and spreads; and

High-stearic — A trait that could benefit baking and heavy frying.

Oils and fats solutions

Here is a look at some other options for creating healthier grain-based foods products through the use of oils and fats:

Cottonseed oil — A vegetable oil that is free of trans fat, cottonseed oil generally consists of 18% monounsaturated (oleic acid), 52% polyunsaturated (linoleic acid) and 26% saturated fatty acids (primarily palmitic and some stearic), according to the National Cottonseed Producers Association, Cordova, Tenn.

Duralox Oxidation Management Systems — When added to omega-3 fatty acid oils, the systems improve oil stability to extend shelf life, according to Kalsec Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich. The systems contain herb extracts and vitamins and are formulated from Kalsec patented technologies.

EsSence — 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.

NovaLipid — Oils and shortenings in the line have 0 grams of trans fat per serving, according to Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill. The line includes nature stable oils and fats, trait-enhanced oils and fats, margarines and shortenings, and custom blends.

NuSun — The sunflower oil has no trans fat and is less than 10% saturated fat, according to the National Sunflower Association, Mandan, N.D. Oleic levels range between 55% to 75%.

SansTrans RS39 — A blend of palm oil fractions and canola oil, the shortening has 30% less saturated fat than palm oil and offers the same performance and stability, according to Loders Croklaan North America, Channahon, Ill.