Low-fat muffins, soft-serve ice cream, and
cheddar cheese produced with FanteskTM, a
natural product made from starch, water,
and one or more oils.
|Families searching for tasty cheeses
with only a fraction of the fat and cholesterol of full-fat cheeses may soon
find them in the supermarket. Such cheeses may be made with a natural product
called Fantesk. Cheese is one of the most recent Fantesk products to
enter the research arena. But many more Fantesk-containing products may benefit
consumers as well as farmers hoping for new markets.
Fantesk is a mixture of starch, water, and one or more oily
substancessuch as the butterfat in cheese. Its name is one of the names
trademarked by USDA, including Smokey Bear. The product stems from a
patented invention in the mid-1990s by Agricultural Research Service scientists at
the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), in Peoria,
Illinois. Scientists showed that, contrary to an old axiom, water and oil
do mixunder certain conditions. So researchers and industry
cooperators are developing an array of new food, industrial, agricultural,
medical, and cosmetic products.
Low-fat cheddar cheese curds produced
|Fantesk was created by ARS chemists
George F. Fanta and the late Kenneth Eskins. They processed starch and an oil,
such as soy oil, together in superheated steam under pressure and noted the
unusual nature of a gel that came out of the jet cooker. Whether the gel was
melted into a liquid, frozen and then thawed, or drum-dried into a solid, flaky
material and then milled into powder and redispersed in water, the tiny
droplets of oil remained well distributed in the starch, with nary a greasy
feel. Some formulations contained up to 70 parts oil by weight per 100 parts of
Mixtures that include only small amounts of vegetable oils or animal fats may
be used to make foods much lower in fat than their conventional counterparts.
Take cheese, for example. The fat content of full-fat cheese is 34 percent or
more, and low-fat cheeses normally have about half as much fat.
"We believe we can develop a low-fat cheese of comparable flavor with less
than 12 percent butterfat or even a tasty product that, according to federal
regulation, could be called a no-fat cheese, having less than 3 percent
fat," says postdoctoral food technologist Gul Uludogan. Preliminary
sensory and taste tests on mild cheddar cheeses that she's made suggest she's
probably right. Uludogan works in NCAUR's Biomaterials Processing Research
Unit, headed by physical scientist Craig J. Carriere.
Physical scientist Craig Carriere
enjoys fat-free soft-serve ice
cream produced with Fantesk.
|More Food Applications
The tiny oil droplets in Fantesk are ideal places to encapsulate certain
fat-soluble compounds that give foods flavor. Under an agreement with ARS,
Azure Waves Seafood Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, is developing seafoods seasoned
with herbs and spices in a Fantesk breading.
Putting butterfat into Fantesk is Uludogan's secret for making her extremely
low-fat cheese. Likewise, research is under way at NCAUR to develop tasty
cookies and muffins with fewer fat calories than conventional baked goods.
NCAUR physical scientist G. Astrid Garzon found only slight differences in
physical properties, such as texture, between cookies made by a standard recipe
and ones made with Fantesk with 30 percent less fat. She overcame those
differences by adding emulsifiers, such as lecithin, to the recipe.
In 1999, NCAUR chemical engineer Jeffrey A. Byars began researching processes
for making soft-serve low-fat ice cream with Fantesk. Within a year, he found a
Fantesk formulation that was just right for the job.
Food technologist Gul Uludogan
produces a low-fat cheddar cheese
|"Using a small amount of butter
in Fantesk instead of cream lets us make a lower-fat ice cream with full-fat
flavor," he says.
In informal tests, Byars and his colleagues found a Fantesk-containing
soft-serve with 1.1 percent fat had similar taste and mouth feel as a
commercial 3.5 percent-fat soft-serve. Conventional soft-serves contain up to 8
percent fat. ARS is seeking a commercial partner to speed development of ice
cream with an extremely low fat content.
Most of Byars' Fantesk research involves the jet-cooking process for making the
product. Fantesk is a family of materials, he says, and different starches,
oils, and processing conditions affect its physical properties and suitability
for various uses. The knowledge and experience NCAUR scientists have gained so
far is helping them develop scaled-up production for additional commercial
partners who would like to test Fantesk's potential for further applications.
One of the co-inventors of Fantesk,
chemist George Fanta prepares to
make the substance with the use
of a steam jet-cooking process.
Since Fantesk was invented (see "A Fantesk-tic Starch-Oil Combo,"
Agricultural Research, September 1995, pp. 1214), interest in its
physical properties has led to many cooperative research and development
agreements (CRADAs) and other types of cooperative endeavors involving
licensing, material transfer, and confidentiality agreements with commercial
The first commercial sales of a Fantesk producta seed coatingwere
in late 1999. The technology was rooted in a 1994 CRADA between ARS and
Seedbiotics Inc., of Caldwell, Idaho.
"During a 3-year collaboration, Seedbiotics tested a wide variety of our
formulations," said ARS chemist Frederick C. Felker. Two years into the
CRADA, the company obtained an exclusive license to coat seeds with Fantesk and
has since independently developed specific formulations. For example, a unique
combination of starch, lipid materials, and plasticizersfor
pliabilityhelps regulate seeds' water uptake in cold, wet soils,
enhancing germination and crop establishment for legumes. Agricultural
chemicals such as fungicides can be mixed with the seed coatings.
Chemist Fred Felker produces Fantesk flakes
using a drum-drying process.
| Under the CRADA with Seedbiotics,
Felker and his colleagues built an experimental jet-cooking batch system. That
experience helped the scientists build a newer version, and they're now working
on a continuous-processing system in NCAUR's recently renovated pilot plant.
The plant offers confidence-building experiences as processes and equipment are
tested on a scale large enough to make economic assessments, says Peter B.
Johnsen, center director. (See "Pilot Plants
Push Tech Transfer," Agricultural Research, August 2000, pp.
Other potential agricultural applications of Fantesk include sprays, coatings
for nursery stock, and livestock feed additives.
Large amounts of Fantesk will be manufactured for research and product use
under one of the newest CRADAswith Hy-Gene Biomedical Corporation, of
Ventura, California. Hy-Gene holds an exclusive license for all topical
therapeutics and drug delivery, as well as skin-and wound-care medical
applications. The ARS researchers will initially operate NCAUR's pilot
facilities and produce the 1,000-gallon pilot lots of Fantesk required to
complete the technology transfer.
Among the first formulations is a barrier cream for use by the health care
market. The product is designed as a superior skin protectant and antimicrobial
skin barrier lotion. Long-term research and development under the CRADA will
focus on products to promote wound healing and to deliver pharmaceuticals to
exterior and interior body linings.
Fanta and his colleagues will test Hy-Gene's preparations for qualities such as
the size and distribution of oil droplets, the manner in which they flow, and
their stickiness and lubricity.
Hy-Gene has successfully completed a prospective randomized human clinical
trial of Derm-Care, its trade name for a line of skin- and wound-care products.
The results demonstrated that Fantesk technology can be used to make a barrier
cream with superior properties. Hy-Gene plans to begin pilot operations at
NCAUR under an extended CRADA with USDA and to begin test marketing the barrier
cream this year.
In another medical application, Fantesk may be used as a vehicle to carry
injectable pharmaceuticals dissolved in the 0.1- to 10-micron-diameter oil
droplets to the circulatory systems of humans and other animals. And in
cooperative research involving NCAUR and the Peoria branch of the University of
Illinois Medical School, scientists gave laboratory rabbits intramuscular or
intravenous injections of solutions containing Fantesk. No allergic reactions
occurred at the injection site.
Today, some injectable human drugs are enveloped in tiny packets of
phospholipids, which become permeable at body temperature. The drugs are then
released into the bloodstream. But for most veterinary applications a liposome
delivery system is too expensive. That's one reason member companies of the
Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation, in Peoria, became
interested in NCAUR's Fantesk technology. They'll fund further research on
Industry Awaits New Efficiency
Chemist Selim M. Erhan, recently of NCAUR, researched Fantesk as a component in
metalworking fluids. Manufacturers annually use 500 million gallons of these
fluids to reduce excess friction in drilling, grinding, and cutting.
Water-based fluidscalled semisyntheticspose fewer disposal problems and
disperse heat better than oil-based fluids. For those reasons, semisynthetics
are becoming more widely used. Those made with Fantesk offer the additional
advantage of having no toxic emulsifiers.
In another metalworking arena, Fantesk may one day be used to lubricate dies,
which shape sheet metal into objects such as automobile roofs. If a die sticks
to a metal surface, it prevents the metal from bending evenly, creating thin,
As a lubricant carrier, Fantesk may soon become an environmentally friendly
additive to oil-drilling muds, which are used to reduce drill bit wear. The
drilling industry uses about 30 million pounds of starch as a component of muds
to line bore holes, making their walls less likely to cave in.
Fanta, Felker, Erhan, and Shrieve Chemical Products, Inc., Woodlands, Texas,
working under a CRADA, invented a way to use a Fantesk formulation as a
water-based drilling-mud additive. The additive would increase the amount of
starch in drilling mud by two-thirds. Says Erhan, "Besides decreasing the
amount of lubricant needed for drilling, routine use of Fantesk would greatly
increase the amount of low-cost starch the agricultural industry could sell to
the petroleum drilling industry." Testing by the Westport Technology
Center, an independent testing facility used by the drilling industry, showed
the Fantesk product had lubricity similar to that of oil-based muds. The CRADA
has been extended a year for field testing.
Although oil-based drilling-mud additives have until now worked better than
those made with water, the market has recently shifted toward water-based muds
because they are less costly. They're also less toxic to creatures in the
"We expect an excellent market for Fantesk lubricants, especially for
offshore drilling in Europe and other places where regulations regarding
biodegradability and toxicity are especially stringent," says Herman M.
Muijs, technical product manager for Shrieve Chemical.By
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of New Uses, Quality, & Marketability of Plant
& Animal Products (#306), an ARS National Program described on the World
Wide Web at http://www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
Craig J. Carriere and
other scientists mentioned in this article are with the USDA-ARS
National Center for Agricultural
Utilization Research, 1815 N. University Street, Peoria, IL 61604; phone
(309) 681-6551, fax (309) 681-6685.
"Fantastic Fantesk" was published in the
issue of Agricultural Research magazine.