With the expiration date on trans fats looming, food manufacturers are scrambling to find what will take partially hydrogenated oil’s place.
Trans Fats And Texture
While trans fats have largely been phased out, they can still be found in foods like shelf-stable frosting and the cream in cookies.
Partially hydrogenated oils are solid at room temperature and provide longevity to processed foods. But it isn’t just these factors that make it hard to replace—it’s the texture and mouth feel that trans fats provide food.
One proposed solution has environmentalists incredibly worried: palm oil.
Palm oil cultivation is the leading cause of deforestation, according to Princeton University professor of public affairs and ecology and evolutionary biology David Wilcove.
When the FDA initially ruled in 2006 that trans fats must be labeled, palm oil imports jumped 60 percent.
Besides, palm oil isn’t a significantly healthier option—it boosts “bad” cholesterol levels as well.
Some view this as an opportunity to demand better regulations and protections for rain forests, such as bans on cutting forest areas for palm production.
Science To The Rescue?
Genetically engineered oils could potentially replace partially hydrogenated oils.
A company called Solazyme makes genetically modified algae that produces oil, and Monsanto is working on an engineered soybean that produces less fattening oil.
With three years to phase out trans fats, food manufacturers have time to develop and reformulate oils.
The FDA has estimated the cost to the food industry will be about $6.2 billion—a small fraction of the public health savings, estimated at $140 billion.