In Trans Fat Decision, FDA Adds Time for High Oleic Soybean Oil to Meet Market Needs

Following a final ruling from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today that rescinds the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) designation for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the American Soybean Association (ASA) noted the industry’s ongoing progress at removing trans fats from American diets, and thanked FDA for the three-year time period – until June of 2018 – for the food industry to replace most uses of PHOs. ASA believes this compliance period will allow the U.S. soybean industry to ramp up production of high oleic soybean oil that can safely replace PHOs and highly saturated fats such as palm oil in many food applications.

“ASA absolutely echoes the commitment from both government and the food industry to better public health through nutrition, which can be seen in the more than 70 percent reduction in trans fat consumption since 2003,” said Wade Cowan, ASA’s president and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas.

In its comments on FDA’s proposed rule, ASA called on FDA to build in the time needed by the soybean industry to increase production of high oleic soybean varieties, which provide the functionality of PHOs in many baking and frying applications without the addition of trans fats.

“High oleic soybeans represent a key evolution in soybean farmers’ ability to meet the needs of our customers,” said Cowan. “But we’ve emphasized to FDA all along that we need the time to get the high oleic trait integrated into soybean varieties and approved in overseas markets so we can produce what the industry demands.”

By June of 2018, the food industry must replace the existing use of PHOs in the marketplace, estimated at between 2 and 2.5 billion pounds. The concern, said Cowan, was that without a suitable ramp-up timeframe, the food industry to get the functional characteristics it needs for certain applications would turn to competing oils such as palm oil that are either high in saturated fat or that create a detrimental environmental impact.

“Soybean oil contains no trans fat, is low in saturated fat, is sustainable, and is a broadly available, domestic option for the food industry here in the United States,” he said. “We hope our partners in the food industry will utilize the timeframe FDA has provided, and join us as we move seamlessly to high oleic soybean oil to replace PHOs.”