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Cargill poised to eliminate trans fat from global edible oils portfolio

December 12, 2021
Food & Drink

Cargill plans to remove industrially-produced trans-fatty acids (iTFAs) from its entire global edible oils portfolio. This helps both Cargill and its customers comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended standard of a maximum of two grams of iTFA per 100 grams fats/oils by the end of 2023.

Cargill estimates that it has already contributed to removing more than one billion pounds of iTFAs from consumers’ diets globally. Currently, approximately 89% of Cargill’s global edible oils portfolio meets WHO’s iTFA best practice.

This new move to eliminate iTFAs will see Cargill reformulating its global portfolio and significantly investing in upgrades and processing changes at several oil manufacturing facilities.

In an in-depth interview, FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with the president of Cargill’s global edible oils business, Jennifer Shomenta.

“We recognize this transition will take time and we want to apply our breadth of innovation and learning to our customers ahead of any potential regulatory action and in response to increasing public health concerns,” Shomenta explains.

“As market requirements and consumer preferences shift, Cargill is eager and positioned to use its expertise to help customers to take steps to globally transition to alternative oil solutions to meet the WHO best practices. Further, it aligns with the commitment of many of the world’s largest food companies and members of the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA), who have committed to the WHO goal.”

“We took this step with the intent of driving change at an industry-wide level, regardless of operational scale or geography,” she continues.

Access to iTFA alternatives
Shomenta stresses that to meet the WHO’s 2023 objective on iTFA reduction, it’s essential to secure broad support among different constituencies, including key industry players such as international and domestic companies, national food industry organizations, and other industries ingredient suppliers. Cargill stands ready to play its part in this context, she says.

“As food manufacturers increasingly look to meet the WHO best practice on iTFAs and may be operating across markets with and without iTFA limits, this step will provide Cargill customers with access to consistent and accessible iTFA alternatives,” Shomenta explains.

“For larger manufacturers operating regionally or globally, supporting this best practice will help ensure consistency in their overall supply chain. While for smaller manufacturers or those operating in markets considering iTFA limits, Cargill stands ready to help them transition away from iTFAs by providing them access to Cargill’s breadth of innovation and experience.”

Regional challenges
Some of Cargill’s customers operate in markets where there are no regulatory limits of iTFAs or in which regulatory timelines differ from the WHO’s goal.

“For us, that includes customers in China, Malaysia, Russia, India and Mexico. Our focus will be helping those customers transition to alternative solutions as we work to transition our global portfolio,” Shomenta outlines.

“To do so, we will collaborate with each customer to bring the best solution for that customer to market and optimize the complex design of the desired product. Our replacement alternatives fit various profiles to meet all the features taken into consideration by customers when they select ingredients: functionality, desired fat profile and shelf life labeling, among others. Across our customer engagements, their products can vary significantly.”

Cargill’s innovation teams have developed various alternative solutions that are effective at replacing partially hydrogenated oils. Some of these include:

• Oils low in saturates and high in monosaturates, such as high oleic canola oil

• Blends of liquid and non-hydrogenated hard stocks

• Interesterified oils

One example of a Cargill-developed solution is the CremoFlex product line for filling fats for bakery and confectionery. It contains no partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils (PHOs), is lower saturated fat and is easy to process.

Innovation makes iTFA reduction possible
This commitment from Cargill builds on decades of innovation to address iTFAs, which are primarily formed through the PHO and can result from high thermal treatment during the refining process.

While iTFA regulations are in place in approximately 40 countries, either through PHO bans or limits to maximum amounts of iTFAs in food, they remain a health concern in many locations.

Cargill’s innovation centers have made significant advancements toward reformulating alternatives to products that contain iTFAs, offering more than 300 global customers viable and safer solutions to date.

These innovations demonstrate that it is not only feasible to meet the WHO best practice on iTFAs, but it can be done without discernibly changing the taste or texture of consumers’ favorite foods.

Growth in edible oils
Speaking about what growth and opportunities remain in the edible oils space, Cargill expects to expand its global portfolio of specialty fats significantly. Construction is already underway on a US$35 million expansion of its Port Klang, Malaysia, facility, the first step in a multi-year, global investment expected to exceed US$100 million.

“Our portfolio expansion will include specialty fats for use in chocolates, coatings, fillings and compounds, spreads, bakery fats, as well as the rapidly growing meat and dairy alternatives market,” Shomenta reveals.

“We’re very excited about the strong position these investments put us in to serve global and regional customers alike. The Port Klang expansion is expected to be complete in late 2023, at which time Cargill will begin supplying finished specialty fats to customers throughout the Asia Pacific region and semi-finished products to Cargill facilities in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, South America and North America.”

“These investments also align with our plans to expand our operational footprint across the Asia Pacific region. In 2021 alone, we announced our intent to build a US$200 million palm oil refinery in Indonesia, acquired an edible oil refinery in Southern India, and unveiled a new partnership with Nestle to support Indonesian cocoa farmers,” she concludes.

By Gaynor Selby


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