FDA grants 'GRAS' status to BLC’s shea olein, adding impetus to empowering West African women

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Over 16 million women living in rural Africa depend on the shea industry to financial support their households. Pic: BLC
Over 16 million women living in rural Africa depend on the shea industry to financial support their households. Pic: BLC

Related tags: Bunge Loders Croklaan, shea butter, Africa, women empowerment

Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC) has been given the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the expanded use of its shea olein in US products.

The ingredient specialist’s shea olein – a soft fraction of shea butter suitable for a variety of applications, including baked goods, snacks and fillings sold in the US – has been granted the ‘General Recognised as Safe’ (GRAS) status from the FDA.

Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree, Vitellaria paradoxa,​ which grows in the dry savannah belt of western Africa. The product is used extensively by the cosmetics industry and with a 40% less saturated fat content, is considered a healthier and more functional oil than palm.

“Bunge Loders Croklaan is excited to expand its US portfolio with the soft fraction of shea butter – a non-GMO ingredient that delivers high-stability and excellent mouthfeel in bakery, confectionery, and prepared foods,”​ said Tyronna Capers, director of Marketing.

According to BLC, shea olein is perfectly poised to meet the American consumer’s rising demand for non-GMO and sustainable ingredients. It also helps producers to optimise criteria like shelf stability, taste and texture.

Given that shea ticks all the on trend boxes, imports of shea to the US are expected, added BLC, which will obviously positively impact the economy of West Africa and the communities linked to shea crushing and collecting.

The speciality oils and fats business has played a leading role in the sourcing and producing of shea for more than half a century. In September, it opened its first shea processing plant in Ghana and the largest one on the African continent.

In 2017, the company embarked on a sustainability strategy to build ‘a better tomorrow’ for West African shea communities by empowering the women involved.​ Over 16 million women living in rural Africa depend on the shea industry to financial support their households.

“This new product also links directly to our shea processing facility in Ghana and our shea sustainability programme in West Africa – ‘Where Life Grows’ – which was set up with the objective to empower woman shea collectors, create socio- economic value in their communities and conserve and regenerate the shea landscape,” ​added Capers.

BLC’s soft fraction of shea butter is the second shea ingredients to be given GRAS status. In 1998, its firm fraction of shea butter – shea stearin – was recognised as GRAS in the US for use in frostings and toppings of baked goods.

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