Antioxidant titans rosemary extract and virgin olive oil together reduce a carcinogen found in popular snacks such as french fries and potato crisps, Spanish researchers say.

Acrylamide, which can also damage cell DNA, forms in foods cooked at high heat and particularly in potato and cereal goods. Many health authorities recommend reducing exposure to it.

When conventional products, such as sunflower oil, are used for frying, the level of acrylamides increases with each use of the oil, according to Murcia-based natural extracts company Nutrafur and the Hojiblanca Cooperative Group, which has its headquarters in Málaga.

But they claim to have developed a way to make a high stability olive oil that produces up to 80 percent lower levels of acrylamides than other oils — even high-oleic sunflower oil — while also producing progressively less of the compound with each frying cycle.

According to a patent application by Hojiblanca published last July, the olive oil is said to have almost double the oxidative stability — which means it goes rancid much more slowly — than already very stable virgin olive oil. This is attributed to its 50-60mg/l content of diterpene phenols, compounds key to rosemary extract’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory kick.

With the European Food Safety Authority due soon to update its risk assessment of acrylamide in food, Olive Oil Times spoke to Nutrafur production manager Obdulio Benavente-García García, one of the inventors of the high stability olive oil, about its development.

Why did you add rosemary extract?

Virgin olive oil not only has proven heart benefits, it naturally has the highest level of antioxidants of all frying oils, but we sought to further increase its stability with other natural antioxidants so its final cost per fry cycle would be competitive with the much cheaper alternatives usually used in commercial food preparation, namely sunflower, soy and corn oil.

The particular rosemary extract we use has the advantages of being both high in antioxidants and soluble in olive oil.

What are the prospects of commercial success?

The initial project was for a large fast food company and the results were quite good. But that multinational decided not to pursue it because the olive oil gave their food too intense a flavor compared to vegetable oil they had been using.

At the moment it’s difficult to find a market because other oils used in industrial frying are much cheaper than olive oil, although this one can be re-used more times. But we believe it’s a product that, once the economic situation improves, could have a promising future. After all, it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in cost and has enormous advantages for consumer health over other oils.

Benavente-García García joined Julian Castillo Sánchez and Silvia López Feria as the inventors of the process.

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