Glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl), a naturally occurring amino sugar, is found in cartilage and is used as a dietary supplement to support joint health for ageing people and those undergoing intense physical activity.
It is traditionally extracted from Chinese or Indian shellfish waste and has been widely available in the European Union. However this source poses problems for consumers allergic to shellfish and supplies of the ingredient have also been affected in Europe by a ban on Chinese fish imports.
Cargill's Regenasure is the first glucosamine not obtained from shellfish. It is instead derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger, a food source since the 1920s. However as the first glucosamine to be produced from fungi, it requires novel foods approval under European regulations.
Cargill Acidulants has applied to the UK Food Standards Agency, requesting that the product should be treated under article 5 of the 1997 novel foods regulation, as it is 'substantially equivalent' to the existing glucosamine HCl derived from shellfish.
Sales of arthritis and joint pain supplements are growing fast in Europe, boosted by the growing population. However there is growing competition in the US market for glucosamine, with lower ingredient prices translating to reduced supplement prices during 2002, despite volume growth.
Cargill opened a new production plant for its Regenasure glucosamine last year, investing more than $10 million in its Eddyville facility. It also makes OptaFlex, the first solvent-free chondroitin sulfate derived from North American sources.
Comments on the application should be sent to the ACNFP Secretariat by 20 March 2004 and will be passed to the Committee before it finalises its opinion on this application. The UK's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes will discuss the application at a meeting on 25 March.