Palm oil, a natural oil extracted from the fruit of oil palm trees that is semi-solid at room temperature (15–25 degrees Celsius), is increasingly being used as an alternative to partially hydrogenated fats in baking and processed food applications.
The J.M. Smucker Company, American manufacturer of Crisco (the original partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening), in 2004 released a new formulation made from solid saturated palm oil cut with soybean oil and sunflower oil. This blend yielded an equivalent shortening much like the previous partially hydrogenated Crisco, and was labelled zero grams of trans fat per 1 tablespoon serving (as compared with 1.5 grams per tablespoon of original Crisco). As of January 24, 2007, Smucker claims that all Crisco shortening products in the US have been reformulated to contain less than one gram of trans fat per serving while keeping saturated fat content less than butter. The separately marketed trans-fat free version introduced in 2004 was discontinued.
On May 22, 2004, Unilever, the corporate descendant of Joseph Crosfield & Sons (the original producer of Wilhelm Normann's hydrogenation hardened oils) announced that they have eliminated transfats from all their margarine products in Canada, including their flagship Becel brand.
Agribusiness giant Bunge Limited, through their Bunge Oils division, are now producing and marketing an ''NT'' product line of non-hydrogenated oils, margarines and shortenings, made from corn, canola, and soy oils.
Since 2003, Loders Croklaan, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia's IOI Group has been providing trans fat free bakery and confectionery fats, made from palm oil, for giant food companies in the United States to make more heart healthy margarine.
Major users' response
Some major food chains have chosen to remove or reduce trans fats in their products. In some cases these changes have been voluntary. In other cases, however, food vendors have been targeted by legal action that has generated a lot of media attention. In May 2003, BanTransFats.com Inc., a U.S. non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit against the food manufacturer Kraft Foods in an attempt to force Kraft to remove trans fats from the Oreo cookie. The lawsuit was withdrawn when Kraft agreed to work on ways to find a substitute for the trans fat in the Oreo. In November 2006, Arby's announced that by May 2007, it would be eliminating trans fat from its french fries and reducing it in other products.
Similarly, in 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued KFC over its use of trans fats in fried foods. concerning their class action complaint. KFC reviewed alternative oil options, saying "there are a number of factors to consider including maintaining KFC's unique taste and flavor of Colonel Sanders' Original Recipe". On October 30, 2006, KFC announced that it will replace the partially hydrogenated soybean oil it currently uses with a zero-trans-fat low linoleic soybean oil in all restaurants in the US by April 2007, although its biscuits will still contain trans-fats. Despite the US-specific nature of the lawsuit, KFC is making changes outside of the US as well; in Canada, KFC's brand owner is switching to trans-fat free Canadian canola oil by early 2007. Wendy's announced in June 2006 plans to eliminate trans-fats from 6,300 restaurants in the United States and Canada, starting in August 2006. In November 2006, Taco Bell made a similar announcement, pledging to remove Trans Fat from many of their menu items by switching to canola oil. By April 2007, 15 Taco Bell menu items were completely free of Trans Fat. In January 2007, McDonald's announced they will start phasing out the trans fat in their fries after years of testing and several delays. This can be partially attributed to New York's recent ban, with the company stating they would not be selling a unique oil just for New York customers but would implement a nationwide change. Chick-fil-A's menu is Trans Fat free as of October 9, 2007. Raising Canes fast food chicken restaurant recently tested a trans-fat free chicken strip, but there is no plan to reduce their current menu due to the new strip being considered tasting "unsatisfactory."
In response to a May 2007 law suit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Burger King announced that its 7,100 US restaurants will begin the switch to zero trans-fat oil by the end of 2007.
The Walt Disney Company announced that they will begin getting rid of trans fats in meals at US theme parks by the end of 2007, and will stop the inclusion of trans fats in licensed or promotional products by 2008.
The Girl Scouts of America announced in November 2006 that all of their cookies will contain less than 0.5g trans fats per serving, thus meeting or exceeding the FDA guidelines for the "zero trans fat" designation.
Health Canada's monitoring program, which tracks the changing amounts of TFA and SFA in fast and prepared foods shows considerable progress in TFA reduction by some industrial users while others lag behind. In many cases, SFAs are being substituted for the TFAs.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011