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Friday, February 2, 2007

Peanut Oil Refinery

News broke today that a major peanut manufacturer is expanding its operations into the peanut oil business. The major driver behind this is the market forces of the anti-trans-fat movement. Trans fat is going to be aggressively pushed out of the food supply it seems and peanut oil is in a great position to takes its place.

The article is entitled "
Peanut oil production doubles with new US Golden Peanut refinery" by Lorraine Heller. I have quoted below in peanut coloured text (fittingly in a font called 'Georgia').

"Leading US peanut supplier Golden Peanut Company is expanding into the peanut oil market, with the start up this month of a new multi million-dollar oil refinery.

"The firm said it is due to start supplying customers next month with refined, bleached and
deodorized (RBD) peanut oil, which can be used in fried products and baked goods, and as a flavor carrier.

"The expansion, which will occur adjacent to the company's existing peanut shelling and oil crushing plant in Dawson, Georgia, is expected to double the production capacity of refined peanut oil in the US.

"The trans fat issue is just blitzing the US market, and is really driving demand for peanut oil is, which is trans fat free. Its health benefits have become one of the main selling points for the product,” said Bruce Kotz, vice president of Specialty Products at the Golden Peanut Company."

I have to admit that my first reaction was basically fear for my daughter's anaphylaxis to peanuts. How would she function in a world that would see a burgeoning supply of peanut oil? This plant alone doubles the peanut oil production in the marketplace. What happens when five more plants follow suit?

In a flash I considered moving to Raleigh so that we could be closer to Dr. Wesley Burks and his immunotherapy research! My daughter would be safer and they have an NHL hockey team.

But then I read on ...

"According to Kotz, other advantages of the oil include its clean flavor, low level of saturated fat, high smoke point and good stability.

Refined peanut oil has also been shown to be allergen free, meaning that people with peanut allergies are able to eat products made with the oil."

Did you say allergen free? After I read it I remembered that Patrick Archer, head of the American Peanut Council had explained this to me during our call a couple of weeks ago (article forthcoming!). Unrefined peanut oil is allergenic, however its presence is not common. That being said, unrefined arachis oil is sometimes mixed with refined peanut oil to add flavour but that should be indicated on the label (more information on peanut oil here)

Phew! One less thing to worry about ...


NP revision:

After writing the initial article I found the following excerpt at Anaphylaxis Canada. Looks like it is 'better safe than sorry' with refined peanut oil!

Highly Refined Oils
All oil sources should be declared on food labels despite the suggestion that “highly refined peanut and soybean oils be excluded from the labelling requirements because these two products do not contain sufficient amounts of protein to elicit allergic reactions”. 6 There have been contradictory reports on the allergencity of highly refined peanut oil, as noted below:

There has been considerable confusion about whether the oils (e.g. of peanut, tree nuts,
cotonseed) are allergenic. In the past there was an unsupported assumption that they must be;
hen an equally unsupported view that oil does not contain protein and therefore they cannot be.

In 1997, papers on peanut oils by Hourihane et aland tree nut oils by Teuber et al, showed that
unrefined oils were allergenic but refined oils were not. However, a later paper by Olszewski et al (1998) reported the presence of protein allergens in refined peanut oil. The obvious explanation of the contradiction between the results of Hourihane et al and Olszewski et al is that they were using two different samples of "refined" peanut oil, which in turn suggests the conclusion that the unqualified term "refined peanut oil" cannot be assumed to meannon-allergenicity. This further suggests that unless the oil is highly refined, analytically monitored and designated non-allergenic, peanut oil should be treated as allergenic.

Additionally, it appears that government has limited control over imported foods, which may or may not adhere to food labelling regulations. Rather than state that highly refined peanut oil is ‘safe’ and unrefined peanut oil is not safe, it may be easier to include the oil source on all labels and leave investigation up to the consumer.

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