FSA seeking opinions on astaxanthin, phytosterol

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novel foods European union Archer daniels midland

The UK Food Standard Agency's expert advisory committee on novel
foods is consulting on draft opinions on applications on the
substantial equivalence of two novel ingredients.

The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), said that both applications are from companies that want their ingredients approved for sale on the grounds that they are substantially equivalent to products that are already on the market.

Novel foods are foods that do not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997. The agency is advised on novel foods and processes by the ACNFP.

'Novel foods' are defined as those products that were not consumed to a significant degree in the EU before 15 May 1997, the date the original legislation came into force. Such foods thus go under a pre-market safety assessment and authorisation process before being allowed to go on sale in the 25-member bloc.

Novel foods are divided in three main groups. One group covers traditional foods, such as noni juice, sourced from outside the bloc. A second group covers newly developed innovative foods such as phytosterols. A third group covers food produced by new technologies with an impact on food, such as fruit juice produced using high pressure processing.

Cyanotech corporation has asked for its astaxanthin-rich extract, obtained from the dried algae biomass of Haematococcus pluvialis, to be approved as substantially equivalent to a H. pluvialis astaxanthin-rich algal meal, which was sold to European consumers by the Swedish company Astacarotene (now owned by Fuji Chemicals, Japan) before May 1997.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, which is found in H. pluvialis. This microalgae is part of the diet of fish or crustaceans, such as salmon and shrimps, and is responsible for the pink colour in their flesh.

Another astaxanthin-rich oleoresin produced by the company US Nutra (now called Valensa), and similar to Cyanotechs ingredient, was agreed to be substantially equivalent to Astacarotenes algal meal in June 2004.

Lipofoods has requested an opinion from the Agency on the equivalence of their phytosterol ingredient derived from soya with the phytosterol ingredient marketed by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and authorised in 2004. Lipofoods intends to use their phytosterol ingredient in yellow fat spreads, salad dressings and milk-type products.

Phytosterols are used by the food industry for their cholesterol-lowering properties. They are naturally present at low levels in vegetable oils and in food derived from such sources.

The draft opinions suggest that both products should be accepted as substantially equivalent to the corresponding existing food ingredients. The deadline for comments on both opinions is 5 February 2007.

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