Manufacturers of everything from nutrition bars to salad dressings, pasta sauces and margarine are seeing encouraging results using soybean oil developed by Monsanto and Solae rich in the omega-3 fatty acid SDA (stearidonic acid).
Soymega, which the partners predict will be available next year pending regulatory approvals, is being promoted as a cost-effective means of adding omega-3s to food without the flavor, stability and shelf-life issues associated with fish oil or the nutritional shortcomings of ALA, an omega-3 from plants our bodies are not very good at converting into the more beneficial omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com at the IFT show this week, Solae's global marketing and strategy chief Michele Fite said: "We're waiting for regulatory approval, but in the meantime, we've got customers working in a very broad range of products from ready-to-drink milk drinks and juices to muffins and cookies. We'll be able to get commercial quantities to customers in 2012 so we're expecting the first products could hit shelves sometime in 2012."
Solae: EPA alone can support heart health
While other firms such as BASF and Martek/Dow are pumping R&D dollars into plants modified to contain EPA and DHA directly, oil from SDA beans was “the optimal omega-3 for food” because it is stable and affordable but still delivers meaningful quantities of EPA, said a Monsanto spokesman.
“SDA soybeans provide the desired taste, shelf-life and oil stability similar to soybean oil, so it can be easily incorporated into everyday foods.”
Although much of the scientific research on omega-3s is based on studies on DHA or a combination of EPA and DHA, “results from several clinical trials using EPA alone have shown that EPA helps support heart health”, added Ratna Mukherjea, senior group leader, global applied nutrition at Solae.
Sensory benefits in many applications
Soymega has a “clean flavor and can be incorporated into a wide range of great-tasting foods while maintaining shelf-life”, added Al Gallegos, group director, omega-3 at Solae.
“It provides overall sensory benefits in many applications, making for a positive eating experience, whereas food and beverage companies continue to experience challenges when incorporating fish oil into products due to flavor and shelf-life.
“Solae is currently working with a number of food and beverage companies. We have seen positive results in clinical beverages, nutrition bars, salad dressings, pasta sauces, bakery products, margarines and spreads. These positive results have been seen in both sensory and functionality.”
Monsanto said the SDA soybeans behind Soymega are in the “fourth and final phase” of its R&D pipeline, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a letter of no objection about Soymega oil in late 2009 supporting its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) application.