Monsanto gets FDA GRAS for trans-fat free soybeans

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Trans fats Nutrition Monsanto

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a letter of no objection that Monsanto’s ‘nutritionally improved’ soybeans are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), enabling food makers to test the soy oil.

The agricultural giant’s Vistive Gold soybeans are intended to provide oil that could be used reduce the amount of trans or saturated fat in foods. 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.

Vice chairman of Qualisoy, a marketing body for the soybean industry, and soybean farmer Victor Bohuslavsky said: "Oil from these beans can help food companies meet their reduced trans and saturated fat goals. It's also got the flexibility to be used alone or with other oils to optimize cost and taste."

Soybeans are generally high in linolenic acid, which reduces the shelf life and stability of products made from soy oil. To overcome this problem, soy oil is often partially hydrogenated to reduce linolenic acid levels. But this in turn produces artery-clogging trans fatty acids.

Plant breeders such as Monsanto have responded by tackling the problem in the bean, in order to eliminate the need for hydrogenation.

Monsanto's global technology lead for oilseeds Roy Fuchs said: "This product could offer farmers and the food industry an opportunity to help meet a growing demand for healthier foods.”

The company said it is seeking food application partnerships with companies interested in developing foods containing the oil.

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. On the back of growing concern, the FDA issued a regulation which came into effect in 2006 requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods, providing further motivation for manufacturers to slice trans fats from their products.

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