Trans fats have been an active part of the soy industry’s vernacular for decades. And, for the past decade, the industry – including the farmers who grow soybeans – have been working on solutions to meet food-customer needs for a stable oil without partial hydrogenation, which causes trans fats.

The FDA’s recent announcement to phase out partially hydrogenated vegetable oils did not come as a shock to soybean farmers. In fact, the United Soybean Board (USB) has been working with industry on two replacement options for partially hydrogenated soybean oil for more than 10 years. And now, those solutions are coming to the forefront.

“The soy industry estimates that 2 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated soybean oil are used in food today,” says Jimmy Sneed, a soybean farmer from Hernando, Mississippi and USB farmer-leader. “We’re excited to bring solutions like high oleic and interesterified soybean oil to the market and ready to shift the discussion to innovation.”  

High oleic soybeans produce an oil that food companies can use for stability without the need for partial hydrogenation. Farmers currently grow high oleic soybeans in nine states, with more acreage being added each year.

Commodity soybean farmers can help with the solution, as well. By interesterifying commodity soybean oil, processors produce a hard fat, similar to the consistency of margarine, which helps meet needs for some baking customers.

“The U.S. food industry continues to be an important customer to soybean farmers and the entire soybean industry,” adds Sneed. “High oleic soybeans and interesterified soybean oil are solutions brought online to help food companies maintain the taste consumers prefer, while using a domestically sourced, sustainable oil.”

The FDA has been considering removing the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status of partially hydrogenated oils since late 2013. After an open comment period in 2014, it announced this week intentions to phase out partially hydrogenated oils over the next three years.

Farmers interested in helping bring the solutions to the market sooner through high oleic soybeans should talk to their local seed or processing representative, or visit soyinnovation.com.