Oils play a very important role in food ingredients: They enhance flavor, improve texture, keep food moist, and enhance the absorption of key nutrients. Oils, like olive and canola, are good sources of unsaturated fats that have been shown to support heart health. Additionally, other oils, like palm oil, are being used as a safe alternative for trans fat, a type of fat that the FDA has removed from the food supply.
To be able to safely consume edible oil, it must go through an extraction and refinement process. From this process, contaminants can be produced, which is why there has been a lot of conversation lately on 3-monochloropropane,-1,2-diol (3-MCPD) and glycidyl esters (GE). A type of process contaminant, 3-MCPD and GE are produced from edible vegetable oils and fats, such as palm oil, shortening, and margarine, during the refinement process, specifically from high heat during deodorization; and 3-MCPD has been found in soy sauce, oyster sauce, and hoisin sauce.
Currently, there is not much information on the relationship between consumption and safety of 3-MCPDs and GEs, but many regulatory agencies, such as EFSA and the FDA, are doing research to provide accurate recommendations on safe consumption levels.
For more information, check out the European Food Information Council’s (EUFIC) Q&A on process contaminants in vegetable oils and foods.