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Environmental assessment of a new food ingredient, the fat replacer olestra

Allgood, G.S., McAvoy, D.C., Woltering, D.M.
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 1997 v.16 no.3 pp. 586-600
Algae, Food and Drug Administration, agricultural soils, bacteria, biodegradation, chemical oxygen demand, cooking fats and oils, databases, earthworms, environmental assessment, environmental impact, fat replacers, fish, half life, ingredients, landfills, mammals, mineralization, physical properties, potato chips, risk, savory, septic systems, sludge, snacks, sucrose polyester, sugars, terrestrial ecosystems, total suspended solids, toxicity, vegetable oil, wastewater, wastewater treatment, water solubility, zooplankton
Olestra is a new noncaloric food ingredient made from sugar and vegetable oil combined in such a way that it is not digested or absorbed. Olestra will be used to replace the cooking fat and oils used to make savory snacks such as potato chips. An environmental assessment (EA) was conducted to determine whether or not this consumer use of olestra would result in adverse impacts to the environment. The EA was also submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of the agency's review and approval process for this new food ingredient. To provide a conservative assessment, that is, to not underestimate potential environmental risk, exposure estimates were based on an upper-bound annual consumption value of 228 x 10(6) kg (about 500 million pounds) and the assumption that the entire amount would enter wastewater. The olestra environmental database is extensive and includes studies to address its fate and effects in wastewater treatment systems, sludge-amended soils, and receiving waters. Testing showed olestra was not toxic to aquatic organisms including bacteria, algae, zooplankton, and fish nor to terrestrial organisms including bacteria, plants, earthworms, and nine mammalian species. Testing also showed olestra will not bioconcentrate or persist. Aerobic biodegradation was demonstrated in both aquatic and terrestrial matrices and a plausible mineralization pathway was detailed that has application to both aerobic and anaerobic environments. Because of its very low water solubility (5-42 micrograms/L) and sorptive nature (Kd ranging from 10,000 to 287,000 L/kg), the vast majority of olestra that enters the environment will be associated with wastewater solids and sludges. Overall removal for primary and secondary treatment was 91 to 94%. Olestra was shown to be mineralized at a rate sufficient to prevent significant accumulation in soil even with annual reapplication of sludge (half-lives were 10-88 d depending upon the physical form [liquid or solid] of olestra). Laboratory and bench scale testing showed olestra did not adversely effect conventional wastewater treatment. Olestra exhibited no adverse effects on total suspended solids or chemical oxygen demand. Olestra's properties are compatible with disposal in landfills and by incineration. Olestra did not adversely impact full-scale septic tanks or physical properties of sludge-amended agricultural soils. Based on conservative exposure estimates and extensive testing, the evidence indicates that consumer use of olestra will not result in adverse effects on wastewater treatment or aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.