Babies give canola oil new market

There is a brand new market for canola oil in the United States.

The oil has received generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as an ingredient in infant formula.

“It’s exciting that the heart health benefits of canola oil are no longer just limited to adults,” said Angela Dansby, communications manager with CanolaInfo.

The U.S. accounts for 30 percent of the global market for infant formula, with annual sales of $3.5 billion.

“It’s a big market,” Dansby said.

The GRAS status was sought and achieved by Danone, a French food company that wants to use canola oil in its formula because it has high levels of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid that aids in infant growth and development.

Danone isn’t a major player in the U.S. market, which is 90 percent controlled by Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., Abbot Laboratories and Nestle.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any huge impacts right away, but it definitely sets the stage for other infant formula manufacturers to use canola oil in their products,” said Dansby.

If the major players follow Danone’s lead, it could have a significant impact on U.S. canola oil sales.

Danone plans to use canola oil in combination with other oil in its infant formula. It will comprise 17.5 to 31 percent of the fat blend in its products.

At that inclusion rate, babies who drink Danone’s formula will be consuming 5.7 to 10.2 grams of canola oil a day.

Canola oil sales could spike if other formula manufacturers follow suit because there are a lot of babies in the U.S.

“There certainly is potential for that to make an impact on total consumption in the U.S.,” Dansby said.

“Initially, I think it’s going to be sort of a ripple and then we’ll see what happens as far as other infant formula makers go.”

Danone and other formula manufacturers must make a submission to the FDA notifying it of their intention to market formula containing canola oil at least 90 days before the product hits store shelves.

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