Canola Oil Deemed GRAS for Infant Formula

January 14, 2013

The ALA-rich oil can be used as a fat source in U.S. term infant formulas.

U.S. product manufacturers can now use canola oil in infant formula, thanks to an FDA GRAS notification publicized by CanolaInfo last week. Canola oil is produced from the crushing of the canola plant, a relative of rapeseed (Brassica napus, Brassica rapa, or Brassica juncea) standardized for low erucic acid and glucosinolate levels.

Canola oil can be used as a fat source with other oils in term infant formula and at levels up to 31% of the total fat blend, says FDA.

Manufacturers may benefit from canola oil not only because of its relatively low price (and wide availability), but because it is said to be higher in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and possess a lower ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s than other oils allowed for formula.  CanolaInfo, a program of the Canola Council of Canada, says that canola oil contains 11% ALA content compared to soybean oil’s 8% content. Infant formulas in the United States are required to contain ALA because it aids in infant growth and development.

While canola oil is already allowed for use in infant formula in Europe, the ingredient was hitherto prohibited from U.S. infant formula, perhaps due to concern around naturally occurring levels of a toxic component called erucic acid.

“Over the years, there’s been an evolution with a reducing level of erucic acid in canola oil,” says Bob McQuate, PhD, CEO of GRAS Associates LLC (Bend, OR). “As the composition of canola oil has been stabilized, the resulting oil has found increasing usage as a human food ingredient.”

The erucic acid specification for canola oil filed under this GRAS approval is less than 1%, which is lower than that specified in the most recent edition of the Food Chemicals Codex.

FDA’s GRAS approval came at the request of multinational food group Danone. GRAS Associates LLC (Bend, OR) submitted the GRAS application on behalf of Danone.