- Ingredient manufacturer Bunge petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to label soybean oil as heart healthy, and this week it got its wish, according to PRNewswire. The FDA approved the claim that the use of soybean oil can reduce risk of coronary heart disease and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Food companies and restaurants can now use the heart healthy claim on products that include soybean oil as an ingredient, including bottled oil, salad dressings, dips, snacks and baked goods.
- Soybean oil is America's most commonly used ingredient and a top dietary source of omega-3 fats. Bunge is a maker of traditional soybean oil and expeller-pressed, non-GMO and organic options marketed under the Bunge and Whole Harvest brands.
Heart health is the number one health feature consumers look for when grocery shopping, according to Hartman Group data cited in a press release. The research firm’s findings show that 55% of U.S. consumers try to avoid or reduce saturated fat in their diets, and almost 40% try to consume healthier fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.
The FDA’s approval of soybean oil’s heart healthy claim is good news all around for consumers, food companies, and — perhaps most importantly — soybean farmers. The U.S. already is the world's leading soybean producer, accounting for 33% of global production. Now, with the heart healthy claim on its side, farmers should anticipate growing demand for soybean crops.
"By promoting soybean oil's heart health benefits, we are helping to drive demand for a high quality product that can benefit the full soybean value chain from farm to table," Timothy Gallagher, EVP of oilseed value chain, Bunge North America stated in a press release.
Considering the widespread use of soybean oil in many food products, however, there's now the potential for otherwise unhealthy products — like potato chips, for example — to start putting "heart healthy" claims on their labels. The FDA or other governing bodies may need to step in and devise further rules regarding when and where the heart healthy seal of approval can be applied to products.
In light of rising prices for other oils, like olive oil — along with some adulteration scandals — it seems that soybean oil may now come back in vogue. It will be interesting to watch if vegetable oils change their labels to soybean oil to be able to get the health claim. There's also now a strong possibility that food manufacturers will increasingly adopt soybean oil as an ingredient in order to add the heart-healthy claim to their products as well.