By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing soybean oil to be promoted as a heart-healthy alternative has won praise from the soybean industry.
Under the FDA ruling, products containing at least 5 grams of soybean oil per serving are now able to claim that daily consumption of 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The decision was included in a July 21 letter to Bunge Limited from Douglas A. Balentine, director of the FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling.
In February 2016, Bunge petitioned the agency to approve a qualified health claim linking the consumption of soybean oil to a reduced risk of the disease. Food companies and restaurants may now use the heart health claim with products containing soybean oil, including bottled oil, dressings, dips, snacks and baked goods, the company said.
In its ruling, the FDA said in order to achieve the possible heart health benefit, soybean oil is to replace saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories or amount of saturated fat in the diet.
“The FDA’s decision provides opportunities for food companies eager to develop heart-healthy products, consumers looking to improve heart health and soybean farmers who thrive when demand for their crop increases,” said Mark Stravro, senior director of marketing, Bunge North America. “As a leading soybean oil producer, Bunge is committed to enhancing the value of America’s most accessible food oil.”
The United States is the world’s largest soybean producer, according to the USDA. Heart-healthy soybean oil creates a potential for growth for soybean farmers when net farm income is down, said Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Assoc.
“The cooking oil market is extremely important for U.S. soybean farmers, and the newly-approved health claim will enable manufacturers of soybean oil to communicate to consumers about the heart-healthy benefits of soybean oil,” he explained.
“As we compete within the market against other cooking oils, having FDA recognize the ability of soybean oil to provide a superior omega 3 fatty acid profile while also lowering bad cholesterol levels is a benefit to consumers and to producers alike.”
The heart-healthy claim is similar to those allowed for canola and olive oils, said the United Soybean Board (USB). The FDA decision will help primarily in U.S. markets, but the soybean checkoff will “use the claim to position U.S. soy in international markets where health-conscious decisions are also being made,” the organization stated.
“The food industry is by far our largest customer for soybean oil and by submitting this claim, Bunge is really looking out for soybean farmers and our long-term profitability,” said John Motter, USB chair and a soybean farmer from Jenera, Ohio. “This claim really helps U.S. soybean farmers maintain their competitiveness in this critical market and helps us compete with other oils that have become synonymous with heart health.”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the American Heart Assoc., which has recommended lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat as a way to lower occurrence of the disease.