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Low-Fat French Fries From Rice? / July 11, 2001 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Low-Fat French Fries From Rice?

By Jan Suszkiw
July 11, 2001

An Agricultural Research Service scientist is cooking up a new kind of french fry for health-conscious consumers who simply can't resist the fast-food favorite.

The fries are made from rice flour mixtures, rather than potatoes. As a result, the rice fries absorb less fat during cooking, according to Ranjit Kadan, a scientist at the ARS’ Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La.

Rice is also hypoallergenic, nutritious and easily digested, and it stores well, notes Kadan, who is in the center’s Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit. He’s part of a lab charged with exploring new ways of adding value to byproducts of rice, peanuts and other crops. In 1996, Kadan set his sights on making fries from broken and immature/thin rice kernels, which fetch a lower price than regular whole rice.

Earlier efforts by other investigators in the 1970s were sidetracked because of technical difficulties. In 1999, Kadan overcame these difficulties with a method of processing rice flour mixtures into fries with texture, cooking and other properties that closely mimic potato fries. Details of Kadan’s research leading up to the process will appear in upcoming issues of the Journal of Food Science.

In tests, the rice fries generally absorbed 25-50 percent less fat from oil during cooking than potato fries. Last August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed for a patent on Kadan’s process (Application No. 09/645,204). Now, along with Rishellco, Inc., collaborators, he is consulting with U.S. rice processors on ways to commercialize the fries.

He also envisions the rice fry as a "functional food," since it can be fortified with vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients. In related work, he is experimenting with a whole-rice bread for individuals with celiac disease, an intolerance to the wheat protein gluten that affects one to two percent of the U.S. population.

ARS is the USDA’s chief scientific research arm.

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