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Baobab fruit approved as food ingredient in US

By Rod Addy , 11-Sep-2009
Last updated on 14-Sep-2009 at 17:33 GMT2009-09-14T17:33:03Z

Baobab fruit approved as food ingredient in US

Baobab fruit pulp has been given the green light of approval for use in some food and drink applications, with the US FDA signing off GRAS status for the vitamin C-rich ingredient.

Boabab is the fruit of the Adansonia digitata, (or 'upside-down') tree, which grows primarily in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The fruit, which has a long history of use in Africa, has high levels of antioxidants as well as vitamins C, B1, B2 and minerals calcium, iron and magnesium.

FDA’s letter on non-objection follows the submission at the end of last year of a self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) dossier for baobab dried fruit pulp (BDFP).

The application from PhytoTrade Africa – a trade organization representing producers in South Africa – proposed BDFP as an ingredient in blended fruit drinks at a level of up to 10 percent and fruit cereal bars at a level of up to 15 percent.

In a letter to the organization, Laura Tarantino, director at the FDA Office of Food Additive Safety, Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said: “Based on the information provided by PhytoTrade, the agency has no questions at this time regarding PhytoTrade’s conclusion that BDFP is GRAS under the intended conditions of use.” To access FDA’s letter, click here .

The move paves the way for plans by plant extract specialist Afriplex to make baobab powder for launch in the US in early November. Afriplex said it was looking to appoint one or two agents to distribute the powder. The first products containing ingredients derived from the fruit are expected to hit the US market in 2010.

High in antioxidants and vitamins

PhytoTrade Africa intends to promote baobab for its high fiber, vitamin C and calcium content, said a spokeswoman for the organisation: “It’s being touted as the new superfruit. There are a string of nutritional benefits – it’s naturally high in vitamin C and antioxidants, higher than other fruits counted as superfruits. It’s also high in fiber, calcium and potassium.”

The organization claims BDFP has double the antioxidant capacity of pomegranate and cranberries and significantly greater amounts than fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

Product potential

PhytoTrade Africa’s chief executive Gus le Breton predicted a surge in demand for ingredients derived from baobab and products containing them following the GRAS status: “Baobab is an ideal ingredient for health drinks, cereal bars, jams and sauces and its well documented nutritional benefits provide manufacturers with a new opportunity to target the booming market in healthy foods.”

“Dozens of companies have shown an interest in baobab since we submitted the application and many have conducted initial research. Now that approval has been given, they can progress to full scale product development.”

FDA non-objection lends further momentum to PhytoTrade Africa’s campaign to promote baobab globally. It follows the European Food Safety Authority’s approval of baobab pulp as a novel food ingredient in the summer of 2008.

PhytoTrade Africa is championing baobab as a natural, sustainable, fair trade option supporting rural producers in South Africa, describing it as “a lifeline to millions”.

While baobab’s health credentials made it appealing to upmarket, health conscious consumers, PhytoTrade Africa’s spokeswoman added: “There’s definitely mass-market appeal for this.”

The fruit’s flavour is “somewhere between grapefruit, pear and vanilla – it’s quite tart,” she added.

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