The food ingredients division of the US consumer products giant said yesterday that the UK Advisory Committee on Novel Food and Processes has judged Nutraphyl to be substantially equivalent to other sterol ingredients already on the market. It may now, therefore, be used in cholesterol-lowering yellow fat spreads, dressings, milk-type products, fermented milk-type products, soy drinks and spicy sauces.
P&G's sterols are derived from oilseeds and tall oil and produced by DDO Processing, a joint venture between Bunge and Peter Cremer. The raw materials are sourced from Bunge.
The application was received by the UK food authority in December, and approval was sought specifically on the basis of substantial equivalence to the sterols marketed by Forbes MediTech.
Forbes' Reducol branded sterols are derived from pine wood, and in GM-sensitive markets such alternative sources are tipped for popularity. Both ADM and Cognis said last summer that they could now offer IP-certified sterols but long-term supply will be restricted by declining sources of traditional, non-GM crops.
Plant sterols and sterol esters are fat-like compounds from plants, which have been studied extensively for their ability to lower levels of LDL bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to a recent analysis from Frost and Sullivan, Cognis, ADM and Raisio are currently the top three suppliers in Europe, controlling 79 per cent of market share revenue between them. Another 22 companies active in Europe control 21 per cent of the market - estimated to be worth $184m (c €146m) - between them.
The market is expected to increase by 114 per cent until 2012, to be worth $395.3m (c €313m). Key drivers are the increasing scientific data supporting their use, increased interest in lowering cholesterol through diet rather than drugs, and government programmes aimed at raising cholesterol awareness.
When first introduced, novel foods legislation was a confounding force for the sterols sector. Of the 46 applications made to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) between May 1997 and February 2004 for plant sterol or stanol-based foods, less than 10 were granted marketing authorisation.
However the UK Food Standards agency remained positive that more approvals would be granted within two years, and its optimism has been bourn out.
Not only are more sources coming to market, but more food types are also able to be fortified with sterols. For instance, the EC recently gave approval for their use in dietary supplements and rye bread products.