Division of Agriculture, Riceland Foods enter joint effort in CLA production

March 17, 2014
Contact Information:

Andrew Proctor, Department of Food Science
479-575-2980 / aproctor@uark.edu

Dave Edmark, Agricultural Communication Services
479-575-6940 / dedmark@uark.edu

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(EDITORS: Seventh paragraph contains new material added March 18.)


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Riceland Foods of Stuttgart and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture have reached agreement to cooperate in research aimed at commercializing technology to produce soy oil rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA-rich soy oil has health benefits that can reduce obesity-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

“CLA-rich oil production creates the opportunity to provide the consumer with nutritionally significant amounts of CLA in a variety of foods while enhancing the food textural properties and providing a potential alternative to partially hydrogenated fats,” said Andrew Proctor, University Professor of food science in the Division of Agriculture, who is leading the research effort.

Fat that has been hydrogenated starts out as liquid oil that is solidified by adding hydrogen. Physicians generally recommend that consumers reduce their consumption of hydrogenated or saturated fats. CLA-rich oil appears to have the “hardness” properties that may allow it to serve as a substitute for hydrogenated oil. Also, the importance of CLA-rich oil has increased since the federal Food and Drug Administration proposed in November to revoke the “generally recognized as safe” status for partially hydrogenated oils. CLA has had that status in many foods since 2008.

One of the research project’s objectives is to evaluate the quality of products based in CLA-rich soy oil for their potential use in salad oils, shortenings and margarine and as a substitute for partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of trans fat.

Division of Agriculture food scientists found that current processing equipment would need to be adapted to make possible commercial-scale production of CLA-rich oil products. To produce CLA-rich oil, they modified a steam distillation process known as oil deodorization. The Division has filed a U.S. patent to protect the production technology modifying the deodorization process. The agreement with Riceland will advance the commercialization of the process by adapting the small-scale production practices to industrial production levels.

Later this spring, the Division will acquire a pilot plant-scale deodorizer to facilitate the transition to industrial-scale production. The deodorizer will be obtained through funding from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

Proctor is quick to point out that soybean farmers have supported his work. “The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board has funded this research continually for six years. Without their generous support, we would not have made progress on producing CLA-rich soy oil,” he said.

The Division’s food scientists will work with Riceland personnel to prepare margarine and shortening and evaluate their physical properties such as firmness, texture and melting behavior in comparison to those products’ conventionally prepared versions.

“Although we have conducted preliminary quality studies on salad oil and margarine prepared from CLA-rich soy oil, we need to see how the scale of production affects quality,” Proctor said. “The ‘hard fat’ physical properties of CLA-rich oil will be a significant marketing advantage.”

After producing a variety of foods using CLA-rich oil, the researchers will evaluate their stability and consumers’ acceptance of the products. CLA-rich foods have been developed from the oil that would allow consumers to obtain the necessary daily intake to combat obesity-related diseases.

Consumption of 3 grams per day of dietary CLA is needed to realize health benefits. That could be accomplished by increasing consumption of dairy and beef products, but which would then lead to increased intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.

“There is a need for commonly consumed foods to be commercially available that contain high CLA levels and are low in saturated fat and cholesterol,” Proctor said.

For example, a typical 7-gram serving of CLA-rich oil margarine developed in the Division’s food science labs would provide 0.6 grams of CLA, so five servings would provide the required 3-gram daily level at only 185 calories a day, well below the recommended maximum of 700 to 980 fat calories. Division food scientists developed a CLA-rich margarine using 20 percent CLA-rich oil.

“The CLA-rich margarine firmness properties were similar to commercial margarine and provided much firmer texture than the regular soy oil control margarine,” Proctor said.