Companies have until June 18, 2018, to remove PHOs from their food products.

For years, food companies have promoted products free of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). In less than two years, that stance will be more than a formulation option. It is scheduled to become mandatory.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the June 17, 2015, issue of the Federal Register determined there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that PHOs, the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fatty acids, are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human food. Companies have until June 18, 2018, to remove PHOs from their food products.

Food companies already have cut many PHOs from their products since 2006, when an FDA mandate said the amount of trans fat in products had to appear on the Nutrition Facts Panel. FDA estimated daily per-capita intake of trans fat at 1 g among Americans in 2012, compared with 4.6 g in 2003.

Now that PHOs have lost their GRAS status, work continues on eliminating them. Efforts focus on increasing the supply of healthier alternative oils, experimenting with oil blends, using an enzymatic process called interesterification and developing emulsifiers made without PHOs.

Availability of high-oleic soybean oil, which is not partially hydrogenated and contains less saturated fat than traditional soybean oil, should keep increasing. US supply is estimated to reach 140 million lb this year and 1.95 billion lb by the time of the next IBIE in 2019, according to Qualisoy, an independent third-party collaboration that promotes the development of soybean traits and helps to build the market for the resulting oils. The ultimate goal is 9.3 billion lb.

“Qualisoy projects the supply of high-oleic soybean oil will be greater than other high-oleic offerings due to the amount of available soybean acreage in North America,” the company said.

Likewise, the supply of canola oil, also not partially hydrogenated, should increase. The Canola Council of Canada in 2014 announced its “Keep it Coming” program. It has a 2025 target of averaging 52 bu per acre, which could result in 28.6 million tons of production.

Canola oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil all are liquid oils, meaning they likely will need blending with solid fats to facilitate use in grain-based food items.

Enter palm oil. While palm oil has no PHOs, it is about 50% saturated fat. The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended people consume less than 10% of their calories from saturated fat.

The move is on to rid emulsifiers of PHOs as well. Corbion Caravan now offers Ensemble non-PHO emulsifiers. Functionality tests with no-time dough applications demonstrated that the non-PHO hydrated emulsifiers GMS 520 and GMS 540 improved volume and softness while maintaining or improving crumb grain and other attributes, according to the company. While GMS 520 is a 1:1 replacement, GMS 540 allows formulators to reduce use. Corbion Caravan is working to eliminate all PHO products in its portfolio by early 2017.

Palsgaard this year launched three new emulsifiers for cake mixes and industrial cakes. The vegetable-based emulsifiers are free from allergens, trans fats and sugars. They stabilize liquid oil in aerated and non-aerated cakes.

DuPont Nutrition & Health offers both non-hydrogenated and fully-hydrogenated emulsifiers that are also free from PHOs.