PH and Stable Oils
A Look at PH Oils and Naturally Stable Oils
If it doesn't taste good... no one will eat it! This statement is very familiar and it's not likely to change in the future. Despite the 'harangues' of eating healthy, most of us savor the taste our favorite foods, especially fried foods.

Food companies and restaurants using partially hydrogenated (PH) oils are finding that the 'heat is on' to eliminate or certainly lower trans fatty acids. A recent lawsuit filed against Kentucky Fried Chicken, accompanied with international press, has cost this franchise a great deal in public image.

Many food companies reluctant to switch from PH oils to naturally stable oils claim that customers will abandon their products (especially French fries) due to taste. Well, research does not necessarily support that concern. In fact research and actual product reformulations prove otherwise.

Research was conducted by Dr. Kathleen Warner (USDA Agricultural Research Service National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria IL), a nationally recognized expert in the field of frying, shelf-stability and fried flavor. Dr. Warner recently reported on a study comparing three types of sunflower oil with PH soybean oil. The graph below compares the results of flavor quality of potato chips after four days of storage. The chips were taste tested by a trained taste panel. The panel found that the PH soybean oil had an undesirable 'hydrogenated flavor' which is defined as waxy, paraffin, donut, sweet pastry and dairy-like.

It is important to note that NuSun® mid-oleic and high oleic sunflower oil had better stability than the PH soybean oil consistently throughout the test period. Only traditional sunflower oil with very high linoleic levels was less stable thus resulting in taste aversion after extended frying.
Flavor quality graph of potato chip prepared with NuSun Sunflower Oil
The same results were found in French fried potatoes. The taste panel again identified an undesirable hydrogenated flavor. 
Other Research
Flavor quality graph of French fried potatoes prepared with NuSun Sunflower Oil

A considerable amount of research has been conducted over the last several years in anticipation of trans labeling requirements. Summary comments from a few researchers are listed below:

"Potato cubes fried in NuSun® developed better fried flavor compared to PH soybean oil and other naturally stable oils."

Campbell, Gerdes & Tiffany, Archer Daniels Midland

"Fatty acid composition has an impact on frying stability and shelf life of finished products. NuSun®, a sunflower oil with a mid-range oleic acid content, is a good choice for industrial frying application."

Dr. David Chang, Proctor & Gamble

"NuSun® was compared to PH soybean oil at the University of Illinois resident halls in side-by-side fryers. Kitchen workers did not notice any differences in performance between the two fryers nor did laboratory analysis. There was no noticeable difference in color of the fried food and students did not report a difference in taste."

Dr. Edward Perkins, University of Illinois
Changing Consumers' Perception of Good Flavors in Fried Foods
Dr. Warner does agree that consumers of foods made with PH oil have become accustomed to the hydrogenated flavor. However, she sees this as a 'temporary roadblock.' Taste adjustment to food products fried in naturally stable oils will be accepted. This is especially the case with oils having a moderate amount of oleic and linoleic fatty acids such as NuSun®.

"This oil has an ideal fatty acid composition for fried food with its moderate amount of oleic acid needed for oxidative stability and moderately low amount of linoleic acid needed for the delicious deep fried flavor. Plus NuSun does not contain linolenic acid." Oils containing linolenic levels higher than three percent will be unstable in most applications and develop a negative fishy flavor.
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