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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Functional Foods Research » Research » Research Project #438025

Research Project: Increasing Food Shelf-Life, Reducing Food Waste, and Lowering Saturated Fats with Natural Antioxidants and Oleogels

Location: Functional Foods Research

Project Number: 5010-44000-054-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 13, 2020
End Date: Apr 12, 2025

Objective 1. Stabilize sensitive and bioactive food ingredients, improve shelf-life, and reduce food waste with optimized natural antioxidants and plant extracts. Sub-Objective 1.A. Evaluate antioxidant activity of combinations of antioxidants in frying oils and fried foods. Sub-objective 1.B. Evaluate antioxidants or natural antioxidant extracts for protection of polyunsaturated and omega-3 oils and bioactive lipids and to extend shelf-life of whole foods and food ingredients. Objective 2. Enable oleogel applications to reduce saturated fats in foods. Sub-Objective 2.A. Investigate and optimize the physical and sensory properties as well as the oxidative stability of edible oleogels. Sub-objective 2.B. Evaluate interesterified natural waxes, waxes with vegetable oils, fatty alcohols or fatty acids, as potential new oleogelators. Objective 3. Improve commercial value and sustainable food production through recovery of healthful bioactive ingredients from food processing by-products or waste.

Approximately 30% of the food supply in the United States is wasted and the worldwide problem is even larger. This waste represents a large strain on the environment and on the entire food production enterprise. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 20% of the food waste in the United States is due to confusion about the meaning and safety of foods labeled with “best before” and “use by” dates. This means that extending shelf-stability of foods can have an impact in reducing food waste. There is also concern about the healthfulness of processed foods, including the high content of saturated fats, which consumers are advised to limit in the diet. However, reducing the saturated fat content of foods by substituting with healthier fats can influence product texture and mouthfeel, as well as the oxidative stability and shelf-life. The research of the next five years will enable the commercial development of natural antioxidants needed to improve the oxidative stability and shelf-life of foods formulated with a lower saturated fat content. Antioxidants will improve the stability of frying oils, fried foods, and high-value foods such as nuts and protein replacement bars. Oleogels will be developed with improved physical and melting properties for margarines and shortenings and other food applications that require hard fats and will have lower amounts of saturated fats and zero trans fats. New value-added ingredients such as antioxidants and bioactive lipids will be mined and characterized from low-value agricultural inputs. This research, together with complimentary technology and policy development strategies, will contribute to efforts to reduce food waste and improve the healthfulness of the food supply.