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Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge: 2005 Greener Synthetic Pathways Award (Archer Daniels Midland Company/Novozymes)

Archer Daniels Midland Company



NovaLipidTM: Low Trans Fats and Oils Produced by Enzymatic Interesterification of Vegetable Oils Using Lipozyme®


Innovation and Benefits: Archer Daniels Midland Company and Novozymes developed a way to make edible fats and oils that contain no trans fatty acids. The improved "interesterification" process they developed uses less resources. Potential savings include hundreds of millions of pounds of soybean and other vegetable oils, processing chemicals, and water resources each year.

Summary of Technology: Two major challenges facing the food and ingredient industry are providing health-conscious products to the public and developing environmentally responsible production technology. Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and Novozymes are commercializing enzymatic interesterification, a technology that not only has a tremendous positive impact on public health by reducing trans fatty acids in the American diet, but also offers great environmental benefits by eliminating the waste streams generated by the chemical interesterification process.

Triglycerides consist of one glycerol plus three fatty acids. Triglycerides that contain mostly unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature. Manufacturers partially hydrogenate these fatty acids to make them solids at room temperature. Trans fatty acids form during the hydrogenation process; they are found at high concentrations in a wide variety of processed foods. Unfortunately, consumption of trans fatty acids is also a strong risk factor for heart disease. To reduce trans fats in the American diet as much as possible, the FDA is requiring labeling of trans fats on all nutritional fact panels by January 1, 2006. In response, the U.S. food and ingredient industry has been investigating methods to reduce trans fats in food.

Of the available strategies, interesterification is the most effective way to decrease the trans fat content in foods without sacrificing the functionality of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. During interesterification, triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids exchange one or two of their fatty acids with triglycerides containing unsaturated fatty acids, resulting in triglycerides that do not contain any trans fatty acids. Enzymatic interesterification processes have many benefits over chemical methods, but the high cost of the enzymatic process and poor enzyme stability had prevented its adoption in the bulk fat industry.

Extensive research and development work by both Novozymes and ADM has led to the commercialization of an enzymatic interesterification process. Novozymes developed a cost-effective immobilized enzyme, and ADM developed a process to stabilize the immobilized enzyme enough for successful commercial production. The interesterified oil provides food companies with broad options for zero and reduced trans fat food products. Since the first commercial production in 2002, ADM has produced more than 15 million pounds of interesterified oils. ADM is currently expanding the enzyme process at two of its U.S. production facilities.

Enzymatic interesterification positively affects both environmental and human health. Environmental benefits include eliminating the use of several harsh chemicals, eliminating byproducts and waste streams (solid and water), and improving the use of edible oil resources. As one example, margarines and shortenings currently consume 10 billion pounds of hydrogenated soybean oil each year. Compared to partial hydrogenation, the ADM/Novozymes process has the potential to save 400 million pounds of soybean oil and eliminate 20 million pounds of sodium methoxide, 116 million pounds of soaps, 50 million pounds of bleaching clay, and 60 million gallons of water each year. The enzymatic process also contributes to improved public health by replacing partially hydrogenated oils with interesterified oils that contain no trans fatty acids and have increased polyunsaturated fatty acids.

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