Food manufacturers have been under increasing pressure to eliminate trans fats from foods, after evidence mounted to show they raise levels of LDL (so-called ‘bad’) cholesterol, while lowering levels of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, thereby clogging arteries and causing heart disease.
Trans fat in the form of hydrogenated oil is most common in baked and fried foods, in which it can account for up to 45 percent of total fat content. But replacing it has raised challenges for industry, as hydrogenated oils have benefits for manufacturers including higher heat stability – which makes it more suitable for frying – and prolonging the shelf life of finished products.
The latest soybean traits from Monsanto have also been billed by the company as a way to “significantly lower” levels of saturated fats.
Vice president of regulatory for Monsanto Jerry Hjelle said: "Vistive III is a win for farmers, food producers and consumers. This provides a glimpse into the next-generation of biotech products that can bring direct health benefits to consumers…And food producers should benefit from a more stable and more healthful soybean oil to use in its food products."
Monsanto already has low-linolenic soybean oils on the market under its Vistive brand – KFC and Kellogg’s have both used Vistive to slash trans fats from their products – but the company claims that its new generation traits confer “significantly extended fry life” and are more stable at high temperatures than either existing Vistive oils or conventional soybean oils.
Food applications lead for Monsanto Richard Wilkes said: “Application studies show that products fried in the new oil maintain optimum flavor quality.”
Monsanto said that completing its submission to the FDA is an important step toward bringing the new soybean oil to market.
Trans fat bans instigated in places like New York City, Philadelphia and the state of California refer to artificial trans fats, but there are also naturally occurring sources of trans fat. It makes up two to five percent of total fat content in dairy products and beef, for example.
The World Health Organization has recommended an upper level of one percent of a person’s energy to come from trans fat.