LycoRed's VP new product development and scientific affairs, Zohar Nir, explained to FoodNavigator.com at a briefing at the company's plant in Beer-Sheva, Israel that tomatoes have fissures on the skin which make them dry out. Ordinarily this is seen as a negative trait, however the tomato raisins have actually been bred to self-dehydrate within days. The new variety was developed at the Volcani Institute research centre by Israeli company Tomaisins International, which then approached LycoRed to ascertain the level of lycopene in the raisins. The results were startling: each 1g raisin was seen to contain 1mg of lycopene, plus other tomato phytonutrients. For comparison, an ordinary cherry tomato contains a fraction of a mg of lycopene; one big 100g tomato contains around 4mg. Lycopene has been the subject of much recent research, including its potential to reduce risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Nir said that the tomato raisins are "another dosage form for fortification with lycopene", since they can be diced up into four to eight pieces and used in any food. The development means that the lycopene fortification market could open up, the company believes, whereas in the past it has been somewhat blocked by regulatory restrictions around the world. For instance, in Europe lycopene from tomatoes was approved for use in foods as a colouring in 1997. This has meant that the ingredient can be listed on labels as E1161D, but companies have not been able to flag up the lycopene content and its healthy attributes. No novel foods approval was required for its use in food supplements, since it was used as an ingredient in such products prior to May 1997. But novel foods approval is required for fortification, and it can take years to obtain this. LycoRed is expecting that its application will be approved at a low load of 2 mg per 100ml. Another company, Vitatene, which markets lycopene produced by fermentation from the Blakeslea trispora fungus, obtained the go-ahead for its use as a healthy ingredient earlier this year. However when tomato pulp is used as a food ingredient, there is no need for regulatory approvals - since tomato is a long-established safe and nutritious food. By this logic, Nir said of the dried cherry tomatoes: "I believe we will bypass [regulations]." He also said that products like tomato raisins indicate the direction of development in the functional ingredients market. "If we are devoted to nutrition and innovation, this is the way." While LycoRed has the rights to market the raisins as an ingredient for healthy foods, Tomaisins is retaining the rights for retail, either sold alone or in gourmet foods where they are used for their flavour alone, with no mention of lycopene content. But the company is insisting that its Lyc-O-Mato brand appear on the label of the finished product in some form - be it alone, or in conjunction with the finished product brand (eg Lyco-O-Mato - [Brand Name).] "Every label that says lycopene on it is educating the consumer," said Nir. The tomatoes are grown by Tomaisins in a number of countries around the world, including Mexico, Ethiopia and Israel.