Cargill's glucosamine application Europe-bound
glucosamine hydrochloride for use in dairy and beverage products
faces further delay, pending a risk review by the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) yesterday said it was sending the application over for further review by EFSA, as there was insufficient scientific evidence about how the product would affect glucose metabolism, a particular concern for diabetic consumers. Cargill made the application in August 2006 under the Novel Foods Regulation (EC) No. 258/97. The ingredient, derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger, is a vegetarian form of glucosamine hydrochloride currently approved in the EU and extracted from shellfish. Glucosamine hydrochloride is a building block of proteins called glycosaminoglycans, which are part of the structure of cartilage. The ingredient has been linked by scientific studies to improved joint health, particularly in middle-aged and older consumers. Cargill's vegetarian version, branded as Regenasure, is developed from chitin produced by Aspergillus niger. Cargill believes Reganasure is the only non-shellfish glucosamine hydrochloride available for food use. The ingredient has been widely used in dietary supplements since 2004. But according to Cargill's novel foods application to the FSA, no glucosamine of any source is presently used in beverages marketed in Europe. If approved, the application will open up a whole new market for the ingredient. The shellfish-derived version on the market is mainly available as a supplement or as foods authorised for particular nutritional uses under the EU's Parnuts rules. Cargill made the application to use the ingredient in fermented milk-based products and yoghurts as well as the energy drink and smoothies market. Despite the FSA's concerns about the product, Cargill pointed to the ingredient's extensive use in other markets worldwide as a sign of its safety. In the application made last August, Cargill claimed that Aspergillus niger has a history of safe use generally in food production since the 1920s. The strain used to produce the ingredient has been used in the US and other countries for citric acid production since 1993, the company stated. The EU's novel foods regulation was introduced in 1997 as a pre-market approval system for foods and food ingredients that do not have a significant history of consumption within the EU before 15 May 1997. Companies must submit scientific evidence and other key information to national regulators or to EFSA for market assement and ultimately approval. There has been a steady trickle of healthy beverages coming to market, such as orange juices containing cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from Tropicana and Minute Maid, and Provexis' tomato-based heart health drink Sirco. Leatherhead Food International valued the global market for functional soft drinks at US$6.9bn in 2005 and says it is growing rapidly -- although the largest markets are Japan and the US, with Europe much less developed. Likewise, milk-based drinks have proved to be popular carriers for functional ingredients like sterols and probiotic bacteria. With this groundwork in place, it may not take too much of a leap in consumer imagination to take joint health ingredients in liquid form too. The products Cargill is envisaging are "intended for population groups that seek nutritional supplementation to maintain joint health," according to the company. "Typically these groups include older people, sportsmen and women." Drinks may be particularly suitable for people who prefer not to take tablets or capsules, or who are seeking an easier way to incorporate joint care into their daily lives.