ANSWERS 11/14/1988 Canola Oil - T85-10)

November 14, 1988 
                   Canola Oil (Updates Talk Paper - T85-10) 
    FDA is proposing to allow an edible oil extracted from rapeseed to be 
called canola oil.  The proposal, published in the Federal Register on Sept.
16, would recognize canola oil as an alternate common or usual name for low 
erucic acid rapeseed oil (LEAR oil), as it is identified in the United
States.  The following may be used to answer inquiries: 
    On Jan. 28, 1985, FDA approved rapeseed oil as GRAS (generally recognized 
as safe) for food use, providing it contains no more than 2 percent of erucic 
    The proposal to permit it to be called canola oil responds to a petition
from the Canola Council of Canada.  Virtually all the LEAR oil used in the
United States is imported from Canada, the world's leading producer of
    FDA in its proposal agrees with the council that the term canola oil -- 
firmly established as the common name for the oil in Canada -- should also be 
used in the United States, in order to promote free trade and improve consumer
    The American Soybean Association had opposed the name because Canada's 5
percent erucic acid standard was not as stringent as FDA's 2 percent
limitation.  However, Canada has sharply lowered the erucic acid content so 
there is no longer any conflict, and the Soybean Association now supports the 
name canola oil.

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    Rapeseed oil has been used for cooking for centuries in some parts of the 
world.  Before 1971, however, oil prepared from rapeseed contained erucic acid
in the range of 30 to 60 percent.  In animal studies, these high levels had 
been associated with cardiac lesions.  For this reason rapeseed oil was not 
generally used in the United States.
    As a result of efforts begun in Canada during the 1960s, however, rapeseed
varieties were bred that had a low erucic acid content.  By 1978, all Canadian
rapeseed produced for food use contained less than 2 percent erucic acid.  The
Canadian government officially named oil from these low erucic acid varieties 
as canola.  The levels today range from 0.3 to 1.2 percent, with an average of
0.6 percent.
    The oil, which is polyunsaturated, can be used by itself as a salad or
vegetable oil.  It is more commonly blended, however, with other vegetable
oils to produce margarine, shortening, salad oil and vegetable oil. 
    Today, farmers in the United States are beginning to cultivate low erucic 
acid rapeseed plant experimentally or as a replacement for winter wheat,
according to Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and
Edible Oils, based in Washington, D.C.  He estimates that between 65,000 and
70,000 acres of low erucic acid rapeseed have been planted, mostly in 
Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois, with smaller crops in eastern
Missouri and northern Arkansas.  As a spring crop, he added, approximately
5,000 to 10,000 acres have been planted in the Texas panhandle region.