Independent testing of trans fat oil alternatives has revealed that the performance and taste of the more 'heart-healthy' oils matches or exceeds those of partially hydrogenated oils.
Released this week, the results of the contest conducted by FryTest.com revealed that the participating zero trans oils showed "excellent" fry lives as well as a functionality "equivalent to or better than" partially hydrogenated oil.
Additionally, consumer tests on French fries cooked in the oils revealed a generally higher liking for these compared to fries cooked in a 'leading brand' of partially hydrogenated oil used as a control.
The testing, which was conducted in conjunction with Texas A&M University's oils and fats program, was designed to provide unbiased information on the different zero trans oils currently available on the market.
FryTest.com, an independent company that claims no affiliation with the oil industry, analyzed nine oils in the first round of tests conducted from November 2006 to February 2007. These included oils from market leaders Bunge, Cargill and Loders Croklaan.
The analysis compared oils based on fat content (trans, saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), fry life (measuring oil degradation after using each oil for frying 300 times), food to oil ratio (to determine how many pounds of fries were cooked per pound of oil), and consumer acceptance (based on appearance, color, taste, crispiness and greasiness evaluations).
According to the results, all the oils tested contained less than one percent trans fat, compared to 28.8 percent contained in the control. In addition, none of the zero trans fat oils came even close to the end of fry life after 300 fryings. Consumers rated the fries cooked in each oil on a scale of 1 (dislike) to 8 (like). All of the oils were preferred by consumers over the partially hydrogenated oil.
AAK FryChef palm olein, high oleic sunflower blend was revealed as containing 0.2 percent trans fat and 29.4 percent saturated fat. Overall consumer liking was rated at 5.6.
ACH FryMax high oleic sunflower oil contained 0.5 percent trans fat and 6.6 percent saturated fat. Consumer liking was 5.4.
Bunge Amaizing NT high oleic canola, corn blend contained 0.5 percent trans and 10.5 percent saturated fat. The oil came top of the list for consumer liking, scoring 5.9.
Bunge Nutra-Clear high oleic canola contained 0.7 percent trans and 7.1 percent saturated fats, and was rated at 5.6 for consumer liking.
Bunge Treus low lin soybean oil contained 0.3 percent trans fat, 13.7 percent saturated fat, and was rated 5.7.
Cargill Clear Valley high oleic canola oil: 0.2 percent trans fat, 6.5 percent saturated fat, 5.8 rating.
ConAgra Wesson Smart Choice cottonseed, canola blend: 0.6 percent trans fat, 17.1 percent saturated fat, 5.5 rating.
CSP Whole Harvest expeller pressed soybean oil: 0.9 percent trans fat, 15.6 percent saturated fat, 5.3 rating.
Loders Croklaan Sans Trans palm olein, mid oleic sunflower blend: 0.3 percent trans fat, 27.9 percent saturated fat, 5.6 rating.
The online database is designed to provide information primarily for the restaurant industry, but is also relevant for makers of fried foods such as potato chips, corn chips and donuts, said president and chief executive officer of FryTestcom, Stephen Joseph.
Joseph said the contest was "completely neutral". Oils are entered into the contest by the companies that manufacture them, as a sign of confidence in their products.
The FryTest.com website and the expenses of the contest are funded by adverts by oil firms on the site, and by registration fees from firms taking part in the contest.
However, only companies that have entered their oils into the contest are allowed to advertise. Companies that have been invited but decline to compete in the contest will be identified by a black star on FryTest.com's list of zero trans cooking oils.
"One of the reasons I set this up is because I kept looking at the marketing on companies' websites, and I couldn't make head or tail of it. Different testing methods were being used, each of which favored a particular product. I wanted to provide a way of neutral testing that didn't favor anyone," said Joseph, a Californian lawyer who has spent years campaigning against the use of trans fats.
"This will be the central information resource for frying oils. It will mark a big change in the way oils are marketed and found; it completely changes the landscape," he told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
Full results of the first round of the contest can be found here .
To access the testing protocol, click here .