The EC Council of Health Ministers has finalised the legislative process to approve the use of erythritol in foods, under the same conditions as other polyols, by adopting all amendments to the relevant directives voted by the European Parliament in October last year.
Member States now have a maximum of 18 months to implement these changes into their national law. Three countries The Netherlands, Belgium and Finland have given already permission for the use of erythritol in foods.
This approval does not deal with the fact that erythritol is non-caloric and well-tolerated. Last month, the EU Commission issued a discussion paper on nutrition labelling, inviting industry and consumer organisations to provide comment on a number of modifications including the caloric value of erythritol.
These modifications are expected to come into force in early 2007.
"For years we have been working on this approval," said Mark Wastijn, marketing director for Cargill Sweetness Solutions.
"The European food industry and health-conscious consumers will highly welcome the EU-approval of erythritol. This new and unique ingredient provides much greater flexibility in the formulation of calorie-reduced and toothfriendly foods.
"The team of application experts at Cargill Sweetness Solutions are ready to help and demonstrate how to use erythritol in the development of healthier and tastier products."
Erythritol is a non-caloric bulk sweetener with a sweetness intensity 70 per cent that of sucrose. It is the first polyol to be industrially manufactured by a fermentation process and offers both health and indulgence properties.
Erythritol occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and fermented foods. It has a crystalline appearance, taste and functionality similar to sucrose, yet without the calories.
Cargill Sweetness Solutions markets erythritol under the brand C Eridex. It has been marketed successfully for years in many markets including Japan and the US.
The group expects erythritol to grow substantially in the coming years. The trend towards reducing overall sugar consumption means that the food and beverage industry is seeking new ways to respond to consumer demands.
This of course means developing foods and beverages that are lower in caloric density while achieving the desired textural, flavour and stability of traditional products.