Enzymes can tackle trans fats, claims Novozymes

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

New enzyme technology offers the possibility of obtaining necessary
melting properties without producing harmful trans fats, claims

The Danish company has already achieved recognition for its enzymatic interesterification process, which uses enzymes to develop healthier fats and oils for use in margarine, baking and confectionery applications.

The company claims that this process is a viable alternative to conventional partial hydrogenation technique that produces large amounts of trans fats.

Trans fats are found in products such as margarine, cakes, biscuits and crisps, and come into being when oils and fats undergo partial hydrogenation.

The aim of this process is to give the oils and fats melting properties that adjust the melting point of the end-product so that, for example, chocolate melts in the mouth and not in the hand.

However, trans fats, which are mainly found in (partially) hydrogenated vegetable oil, have been negatively linked to raising blood cholesterol levels and promoting heart disease.

Research shows that when too much 'bad' cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain resulting in atherosclerosis.

There has been growing pressure for the whole of Europe to follow Denmark's example and force food makers to clearly label the presence of trans fats. For example, this is the thinking behind the UK Campaign Against Trans Fats in Food, a web-based organisation that aims to put pressure on industry and regulators and raise awareness of the dangers of trans fats.

Novozymes also says that chemical interesterification, another method of adjusting the melting point of fats, has unwanted side effects. It has a negative impact on the environment and leads to discolouring of the fat, which means that further processing is required.

Using enzyme technology on the other hand means that trans fats are avoided, the environment is spared, and a natural product is obtained with natural flavours and better retention of other healthy substances from the oils.

Food makes in Europe are becoming concerned about this issue. In May 2003, a US-based lawyer filed a lawsuit against Kraft, targeting the trans-fat content of Oreo's. As a consequence, Kraft agreed to remove trans fats from their cookies amid the sudden blaze of publicity.

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