Meat processor Tyson will cut trans fats from a range of meat products, the meat titan said this week joining other US food makers pressed to remove this artery-clogging ingredient from their product ranges. Across the pond, investment in alternatives to trans fats is growing with Loders Croklaan breaking ground on the biggest palm oil refinery in Europe.
The new factory is earmarked to process some 2,500 - 3,000 tons of palm a day, carving immediate entry for the Dutch firm into the large volume supply of palm oil based ingredients.
"Palm opens real market opportunities for Loders Croklaan, as well as for our client companies who are looking to eliminate trans fats from their food products," said Loders Croklaan CEO Etienne Selosse.
Spun off from Unilever last year, the speciality oils and fats company will source the raw material from its new parent, the Malaysian palm plantation owner IOI group. A synergy that is now the backbone of the company's 'Growing with Palm?strategy.
Construction of the new Loders plant at Rotterdam Port in the Netherlands is due to begin in the middle of 2004, and completed within 12 months.
Market demand for trans fatty acids is on the up as food manufacturers call for alternatives to trans fats, created by a chemical process called hydrogenation in the production process for longer shelf life.
But linked to raised blood cholesterol levels and heart disease in animal fats, trans fats have come under fire from consumer organisations pressing the food industry to cut the ingredient out of foods.
Last year the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that by 2006 all manufacturers will have to clearly label the levels of these fats in their foods.
While there are no such labelling rules in the European Union certain national governments are pushing for change. Last year Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce restrictions on the use of industrially produced trans fatty acids. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent.
Speaking at the time, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Mariann Fischer Boel said: "It is my hope that we will soon see EU regulation in this field. The next step should be common low EU limit values for trans fatty acids.?/i>
Far from dropping off, activity and opportunities in the European marketplace for trans fats will step up as consumer awareness grows, fired by movement in the US.
The growing list of manufacturers opting to remove trans fatty acids includes Swiss company Nestle, US fast food giant McDonalds and Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo. McDonalds said last year it would cook all French fries in oil with 48 per cent less trans fatty acids ?although according to US consumer groups has since quietly reneged on its pledge - while Frito-Lay said it would cut trans fatty acids from its salty snacks, including Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos.
At the raw material end of the food chain, commercially savvy US biotech giant Monsanto announced plans at the end of last year to develop soybeans capable of producing oil containing less trans- and saturated fats, 'the first natural oil that could make the claim of being saturated fat-free,' said the company.
The new traits, once perfected, will be delivered as add-ons to Monsanto's popular herbicide-resistant GMO soybean seed, Roundup Ready soybean.