Analyst Insight by Lauren Bandy - Ingredients Analyst
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (PHO) is an ingredient with not a very glamorous name and even less glamorous side effects. PHOs are a source of industrially produced trans-fatty acids, with consumption associated with raised cholesterol and inflammation of the blood vessels, heart disease, in short. Since 2007, levels of trans-fatty acids have had to be labelled on food products, and, fearing consumer backlash, many manufacturers have reformulated, removing PHOs and replacing them with healthier but more expensive alternatives. Now, the FDA is going one step further. At the beginning of November 2013, it ruled that PHOs are to lose their status as an approved and safe ingredient, with the aim of preventing 7,000 deaths from heart disease a year. Good news for public health and a good opportunity for suppliers of trans-free ingredient alternatives.
But what does it mean for food manufacturers? Well, not a huge amount it seems. The Snack Food Association (SFA), which represents over 400 snack food companies, told Euromonitor International that the most recent survey of its members suggests that the FDA ruling will not have a “significant impact on most companies”. Indeed, many manufacturers have been working to “eliminate or reduce the use of PHOs from their products for many years”, the SFA said. And manufacturers’ efforts have been successful, not just in snacks but also in cooking oil, bakery and sauces. Euromonitor International data shows that current per capita consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oil from packaged food products in the US has fallen to less than 2g per day, down from 6g in 2007.