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Associated British Foods

In October 2002 ABF - a food combine turning over more than £5 billion per year - acquired the food and beverage business of pharma / biotech giant Novartis. This sale included Ovaltine, sold in other countries as "Ovomaltine". Ovaltine contains hydrogenated vegetable oil.

We received the following statement [14 January 2005] from Ovaltine UK Ltd, which runs the Ovaltine brand in the UK for ABF:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding hydrogenated vegetable oils.

At Ovaltine UK we strive to provide products that are of the very highest standard, both in terms of raw materials and finished product, and that meet the flavour and health requirements of the consumer. Consequently, we take the health issues surrounding hydrogenated oils very seriously.

Ovaltine Original contains around 1% hydrogenated rapeseed oil. Our supplier specifies a maximum Trans Fatty Acid (TFA) content of 29% in this oil, which means that in 100g of Ovaltine powder, there is no more than 0.2g TFAs. Periodic testing has in fact not detected TFAs above 0.1g per 100g. As a comparison, butter contains around 0.3g TFAs per serving. Ovaltine contains less than 0.02g TFAs per serving.

However, despite this, I can assure you that as a company we are undertaking continuous research to identify possible alternatives and to follow all developments within the industry regarding hydrogenated oils.

The amounts of trans fat are indeed fairly small, though still worth avoiding - all the more so in a beverage with such a 'healthy' and innocent image. However the comparison with natural trans fats found in butter is misleading, as these natural trans fats have never been associated with the deleterious health impacts of synthetic trans fats arising from hydrogenation. See here for more information.

July 2006 update

On 11 July 2006 we received this further info re Ovaltine

"Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil has been removed from Ovaltine Original just add Milk and Max for Milk Strawberry and Chocolate flavour, and the labelling will be shown shortly on supermarket shelves. The Add water Ovaltine products are also inadvertently effected as they contain creamers and foamers which themselves contain Hydrogenated Vegetable oils. Alternative products are currently being developed but these will not be available for at least another nine months. So Ovaltine Original just add water and Ovaltine Chocolate Light still contain partially hydrogenated Vegetable Oil."

Contact

Website: www.abf.co.uk
email: helpdesk@rawlingson.star.co.uk ; ABFinfo@abfoods.com
Tel: + 44 (0) 207 399 6500
Fax: + 44 (0) 207 399 6580
Mail: External Affairs, Associated British Foods plc, Weston Centre, 10 Grosvenor Street, London W1K 4QY.

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