Roger Daniels, director of R&D/ new business development, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the company was pleasantly surprised by the award. "It's great to get recognition from you peers," he said. A panel of nine judges from industry and academia selected four companies and their innovations from 46 qualified entries. Judging criteria included the degree of innovation, technical advancement, benefits to food manufacturers and consumers, and scientific merit. Bunge North America won for its Nutra Blanche/ Nutra-Clear NT frying system solution and Donut Fry NT, which utilizes proprietary hydrogenation technology to reduce trans fatty acids by more than 85 per cent in shortening systems for par-fried potatoes and fried donuts. "The technology minimizes the impact of trans fats without negatively impacting the end use of the food product," he said. Daniels said that Bunge had talked to consumers to understand the needs in the end-use application and from there work back into to identify how to meet the demands in terms of taste, quality and convenience. Trans fats and heart health Though trace amounts of trans fats are found naturally, in dairy and meats, the vast majority are formed during the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oil (PHVO) that converts the oil into semi-solids for a variety of food applications. Trans fats are attractive for the food industry due to their extended shelf life and flavor stability, and have displaced natural solid fats and liquid oils in many areas of food processing. But scientific reports that trans fatty acids raise serum levels of LDL-cholesterol, reduce levels of HDL-cholesterol, can promote inflammation can cause endothelial dysfunction, and influence other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), has led to a well-publicized bans in New York City restaurants, and other cities, like Boston and Chicago, considering similar measures. In the food industry this has been mirrored by an increase the in pressure on food manufacturers to reduce or remove trans fatty acids from their products and reformulate. Misconception "Based on partial hydrogenation, we use a patented process whereby we condition the catalyst used for the reaction, in order to obtain good stabilization and plasterisation of the oil, but minimize the creation of trans fats," said Daniels. This gives industry partially hydrogenated oils and fats with excellent properties, but 85 per cent less trans fatty acids. Talking to FoodNavigator-USA.com, Daniels said there was a misconception that trans fats could be totally eliminated when hydrogenating oils - "You can never got to zero, but you can get to zero based on the nutritional profile," he said. The Nutra Blanche/ Nutra-Clear NT frying system solution and Donut Fry NT were launched by the company in February/March of this year, and Daniels confirmed that demand was high. Discussing the apparent trans fat alternatives on the market, like high oleic, low-linolenic acid soy or canola oils, Daniels noted that these offered excellent mediums for frying and traditional high stability oils, but for applications that required higher plastercised oils, they did not reproduce the functionality of hydrogenated oils.
Bunge North America has been awarded the 2008 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for its trans fats reduction solutions.