ASA responds to FDA proposal to ban partially hydrogenated oil

ASA has asked the Food & Drug Administration not to withdraw its GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils.

The American Soybean Assn. (ASA) has asked the Food & Drug Administration not to withdraw its generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).

The association made its request in comments it submitted to FDA in regard to the agency’s proposal to further reduce trans fat consumption by rescinding GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils, including partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

While urging FDA not to withdraw GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils, ASA noted the almost 70%t reduction and continued downward trend in consumption of trans fats over the last decade, and touted the work of the soybean industry to develop high oleic soybean varieties. These varieties can replace the functionality of partially hydrogenated soybean oil in certain applications like baking, frying, and other food processing without the addition of trans fats.

Current projections from QUALISOY indicate that approximately 1.3 billion pounds of high oleic soybean oil will be extracted from the 2016 crop of high oleic soybeans and available for use by the food industry in 2017, with increasing quantities available in subsequent years.

"We are confident that high oleic soybean oil can replace a substantial portion of the between 2 and 2.5 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oils that are still in the market," wrote ASA in its comments. "But that cannot happen without FDA's recognition of the importance of ensuring a sustainable domestically-produced food supply."

ASA further encouraged the agency to take into account the time needed to ramp-up domestic high oleic soybean oil production; and urged FDA to pursue alternative strategies that have already aided in the dramatic reductions in trans fat consumption over the last decade. These include education, revisions to the nutrition fact panel, and limits on the amount of trans fats that food products can contain to be labeled free of trans fats.

The association also registered serious concerns that FDA's proposal would have the unintended consequence of raising saturated fat consumption as a result of manufacturers opting to substitute higher saturated fat palm oil for PHOs as it waits for high oleic soybean production capacity to catch up with current demand.

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