Soy's Role in Fighting Trans Fats

ASA urging food companies to consider using variety of soy-based technologies as they decide how to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jul 2, 2004

The soybean industry is urging food companies to consider a variety of available soy-based technologies and other alternatives as they decide how to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in food products.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) is also asking companies "to carefully consider the consequences of raising the level of heart-unhealthy fats as a solution to the trans fats issue." In a letter to food companies and co-signed by the United Soybean Board (USB) the organizations explain that several processing technologies have been developed that transform the chemical and physical properties of soybean oil so that the end product has few or no trans fats.

The letter cited the process of "interesterification," under which fully hydrogenated soybean oil – which contains no trans fats – is combined with liquid vegetable oil using a chemical or enzyme to achieve products with characteristics required for baked goods and other food products. Other available processing technologies include blending, use of texture-building agents, or increasing use of antioxidants to improve stability.

The letter also described efforts by the U.S. soybean industry to develop improvements in soybean germplasm that will sharply reduce or eliminate trans fats in food products. In addition to new soybean varieties planned for introduction by seed companies, ASA and USB cited ongoing work by the QUALISOY program to deliver desired functional and nutritional traits in soybeans.

"The soybean industry recognizes the need to build intrinsic value into new varieties, and every link in the chain is committed to improving the nutritional value and overall stability of soybean oil," ASA Chief Executive Officer Stephen Censky says in the letter. "With new technologies emerging every day, there will be an even wider variety of options for all processors and manufacturers who are looking for viable soy-based alternatives to partially hydrogenated oil."

In recent years, the American public has shown an increasing interest in, and desire to eat, healthier foods like soy products. ASA is hopeful that food companies will use soy-based technologies and other alternatives for reducing or eliminating trans fatty acids in food products, as they develop and market products that maintain and improve the nutritional quality of the American diet.