The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed food manufacturers and restaurants to make qualified health claims linking soyabean oil to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

The approval will allow food companies and restaurants to advertise their products – including bottled oils, dressings, dips, snacks and baked goods – as containing ingredients that may reduce heart disease risk and may lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol when replacing saturated fats and not increasing calories.

The decision came after agribusiness and food company Bunge independently filed a petition with the FDA including a summary of clinical studies on soyabean oil’s effect on heart health, the firm said in a statement on 31 July.

“Based on a compelling set of human studies from top nutrition researchers showing that soyabean oil could lower LDL cholesterol when replacing saturated fat, we proactively petitioned the FDA to permit the claim recognising that enabling heart health communications for this oil would further enhance its attractiveness,” said Bunge North America senior director of marketing Mark Stavro.

“The FDA’s decision provides opportunities for food companies eager to develop heart healthy products, consumers looking to improve heart health and soyabean farmers who thrive when demand for their crop increases,” Stavro added.

Making the newly approved claims required the advertised product to have at least 5g of soyabean oil per serving and to meet applicable criteria for saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and sodium content.

Additionally, the products must also be a “good source” of one of FDA-identified beneficial nutrients, although this condition did not apply soyabean oil or oil blends, salad dressings and shortening.

Soyabean oil is the most popular edible oil in the USA and the most common dietary source of omega 3 fats, said Bunge.

According to data from consumer research firm Hartman Group, heart health was the top concern for American consumers when grocery shopping, with 55% trying to avoid or reduce saturated fats and nearly 40% trying to incorporate healthier fats into their diets.