From parliament to parlour

14 August, 2009
In the continuing war on obesity, the FSA is turning its spotlight on saturated fats, with obvious implications for baked goods. But ADM Trading (UK) research and development manager Jo Bruce says the technology to reduce sat fats is already there
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Healthy eating has become a priority for both consumers and governments. Initiatives such as the Change4Life programme and the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) plan to reduce saturated fat intake are current examples of the shift towards better-for-you consumption. In reducing saturated fat intake by around 20%, the FSA hopes to reduce deaths related to cardiovascular disease by 3,500 a year. On average, 6% of saturated fat in the UK diet comes from biscuits, buns, cakes, pastries and fruit pies (see table). So reformulation of bakery products presents manufacturers with an opportunity to contribute towards the reduction targets.

At a recent presentation at the British Society of Baking Conference, Steve Knapton, regional sales manager for ADM Trading (UK), presented a paper by colleague Jo Bruce on how the industry could reduce saturated fat levels in baked goods, with minimal impact on product and processing characteristics. He also showed how more radical reductions may be achieved in applications such as shortcrust pastry, giving significant consumer benefits.

== Options for bakers ==

Many bakery applications, such as cakes, short pastry, biscuits and crèmes, are made using cake margarines or all-purpose shortenings. Options currently available in the UK offer a wide range of saturated fat levels, so the challenge for bakers is deciding which product will work for them. At its new purpose-built bakery applications testing lab in Purfleet, Essex, ADM has conducted extensive trials to assess the relative performance of sat fats in a number of products. The trials showed the extent to which fats can emulsify and stabilise flour and water during mixing and baking cakes. An effective fat helps to create a large-volume cake with an even crumb structure and a moist texture, without damp streaks or 'palate cling' when eating. It also shows how lower saturated fat shortenings can stabilise batters as well as, or better than, those with higher saturated fat levels.

Changing from shortenings with around 41% saturated fat to an ingredient containing 35% saturates, for example, would provide a 14% reduction in the saturated fat content without reducing performance. Changing from ADM's Pura Shortening Low Trans (35% saturates) or competitor equivalents, to NovaLipid shortening gives a further 14% reduction. Extensive testing in sweet and savoury shortcrust pastry, cakes, crèmes, dough fats and other applications using this shortening shows that reducing saturated fat to 30% (in the shortening) retains excellent performance.

== Fluid response ==

For larger manufacturers, an efficient and cost-effective way of minimising saturated fat is by using fluid shortenings. These are pumpable, semi-liquid fats with different physical properties to boxed all-purpose shortenings. In applications such as shortcrust pastry and cakes, they can be an effective alternative to solid fats. Well-processed fluids have many separate tiny crystals of fat suspended in a liquid oil medium. These small solid crystals pack tightly around air or water droplets, stabilising them in the batter or dough during baking, while the liquid oil disperses rapidly and gives a pleasant rich texture. In a solid fat, much larger crystals of fat are thought to surround the air or water droplets, so more solid saturated fat is needed to achieve the same functionality as a fluid.

It is important to have enough solid fat in a fluid shortening to provide the quantity of crystals needed for optimum functionality. This must be balanced with the need for pumpability and temperature tolerance. Special physical processing techniques allow fluid shortenings to feature all these attributes with lower levels of saturated fat than solid shortenings - in ADM's case, 26% and 18% respectively for NovaLipid fluid shortening and NovaLipid Ultra fluid shortening. Samples of the fluid shortenings have been shown to maintain their fluid, flowing properties for over a year when stored in optimum conditions. In a factory environment, even with variable temperatures, they are also extremely stable.

Fluid shortenings are not only highly functional with a lower level of saturated fat, but also enable food manufacturers to reduce overall fat usage by 10-20%. This is because of the high level of liquid oil, which provides rapid and effective dispersion, making pastries shorter than usual. Fluids are usually supplied by tanker, so they are more suitable for large manufacturers with their own tanks. The fluid is then pumped around the factory minimising manual handling and packaging waste.


=== FSA consultation ===

In July, the FSA launched a consultation on saturated fat reduction to the public, suggesting clear targets for saturated fat reductions in a range of bakery products. Cakes, shortcrust and puff pastry applications are all targeted with a 10% reduction by 2012. Consultation documents can be downloaded from Companies have until 3 November to respond.


=== Covering all the bases ===

Puff pastries, Danish pastries and other laminated fat applications are being targeted as part of the FSA's saturated fat reduction plan. Small changes could be achieved by using lower saturated fat, all-purpose, or fluid shortenings as the dough fat, but most of the saturated fat is contained in the laminating fat.

Unlike all-purpose shortenings, there is little variation in the saturated fat content of laminating fats available in the UK. This type of product must contain high levels of solid fat to maintain separate discrete layers of dough, without creaming and mixing in. One option to reduce the saturated fat content would be to add less fat, but this would affect the amount of lift the pastry achieves. Another option is to reduce the fat level in the margarine.

Tests with a pastry containing 33% saturated fat, a reduction of 19% on standard 41% saturated fat products, show that using a lower saturated fat blend and a lower level of total fat in the laminating fat achieves pastry with the same lift, eating properties and ingredients list as a standard puff pastry margarine.

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