Proteins to help make low-fat ice cream?

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ice cream European union Unilever

A novel food application to use an ice structuring protein, derived
from a yeast, in low-fat ice cream has been recommended for
approval by the UK's Food Standards Agency.

If approved by EU member states, the application from Unilever will allow the company a sustainable and economically feasible method of sourcing ice structuring proteins (ISPs). ISPs are naturally occurring proteins and peptides which are found in a variety of living organisms such as fish, plants, and insects. ISPs protect tissues from damage in very cold conditions by lowering the temperature at which ice crystals grow and by modifying the size and shape of ice crystals. In its application Unilever said the new process is in response to the growing challenge to develop ice cream with fewer calories and less fat. The company said: "Removing these ingredients is challenging as they have an important role in forming the texture and taste of ice cream." ​Unilever carried out research into certain proteins that occur naturally in animals and plants living in cold climates. These proteins offer protection to living organisms against very cold conditions by binding to ice crystals, controlling their growth and preventing tissue damage. "When ISPs are used in the manufacture of frozen products they help with the formation of a large number of very small crystals, instead of the smaller number of relatively large ice crystals found in conventional frozen foods,"​ Unilever said. "These very small ice crystals provide a structure that differs from existing products allowing, for example, the production of ice cream with a low fat content." ​ Unilever looked at an ISP found in the cold water ocean pout fish, but found it would not be sustainable or economically feasible to extract this protein. Instead it developed a strain of baker's yeast that can produce the same ISPs. Unilever intends to use its ISP preparation in edible ices, such as ice cream, sorbets and frozen desert, in order to influence the formation of ice structures during manufacture. Unilever hopes to source its ISPs from the fermentation of a genetically modified food grade yeast (Saccharomyces cervisiae​) in sealed vessels. Under Novel Foods Regulation (EC) No. 258/97 a company wishing to use an ingredient not eaten in substantial quantities in the EU before May 1997 must apply for permission. The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, appointed by the FSA, was satisfied that Unilever's ISP preparation meets the criteria for acceptance of novel food ingredients and that it can be used in the range of ice cream products and other edible ices proposed by Unilever. The application will now be circulated to member states for approval. The ISP preparation has already been authorised for use in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, the United States and the Philippines under their regulatory procedures. Edible ices containing this preparation have been on the market in the USA since 2003, with no reported consumer issues.

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