Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia are working on a method to remove fat and cholesterol from foods, focusing on a process currently being used to take caffeine out of coffee.

Food scientist Steve Mulvaney and research associate Roy Chao are refining the so-called "supercritical fluid extraction" method."Our preliminary results show the process is effective for removing fat and cholesterol from beef, pork and dairy products," said Mulvaney.

The process calls for heating carbon dioxide to about 160 degrees while putting it under 4,500 pounds of pressure to create a "powerful solvent," they said.

The researchers are working to refine the process so only undesirable properties are removed from food products. For example, they want to remove cholesterol and saturated fats from meat but do not want to extract triglycerides or other components that contribute to the meat's juiciness, flavor and nutrition.

So far, supercritical extraction is an expensive process, but Mulvaney and Chao are working toward improving the efficiency of the method.

In one of their projects, Mulvaney and Chao are working with beef fat to improve the product for the fast-food industry. Fat has a desirable flavor but contains saturated fat and cholesterol.