Soybean growers ask FDA not to ban partially hydrogenated oils

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 7, 2014-- The American Soybean Association (ASA) submitted its comments today on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposal to further reduce trans fat consumption by rescinding the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), including partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

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FDA extended the comment period on its proposal in December. The proposal, if finalized, would also require food manufacturers to receive FDA approval to sell products containing partially hydrogenated oils.

In its request that FDA not withdraw GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils, ASA said trans fat consumption decreased almost 70 percent over the last decade, and promoted the work the soybean industry's work on high oleic soybean varieties. According to ASA, current projections from QUALISOY, an organization formed by the United Soybean Board, indicate that approximately 1.3 billion pounds of high oleic soybean oil will be extracted from the 2016 crop of high oleic soybeans and available for use by the food industry in 2017.

"We are confident that high oleic soybean oil can replace a substantial portion of the between 2 and 2.5 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oils that are still in the market," wrote ASA in its comments. "But that cannot happen without FDA's recognition of the importance of ensuring a sustainable domestically-produced food supply."

ASA said alternative strategies-including education, revisions to the nutrition fact panel, and limits on the amount of trans fats that food products can contain to be labeled free of trans fats-would be preferable so the industry has time to increase domestic high oleic soybean oil production.

Among its concerns, ASA said FDA's proposal would have the unintended consequence of raising saturated fat consumption. Manufacturers could choose to substitute higher saturated fat palm oil for PHOs as it waits for high oleic soybean production capacity to catch up with current demand.

"This would replace our domestically-grown and sustainable soybean oil with palm oil," ASA wrote. "The saturated fat profile of palm oil is 6.7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, compared to just 2 grams for soybean oil. The result of this trade-off would be a 'lose-lose' for both the government and American consumers."

Another consequence of this substitution, according to ASA, is the loss of more than $1.6 billion in farmer income as a result of the immediate switch from soybean oil to higher saturated fat palm oil.

As an alternative, ASA cited an approach taken by other nations including Denmark in setting a limit on daily consumption of trans fats in food.

To view ASA's comments, click here.

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