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Natural beta-carotene gains GRAS status

By Mike Stones , 29-Jan-2010

A new range of natural carotenoids destined for human consumption moved a step closer to sale recently with GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) notification from the Food and Drug Administration for Microbia’s bio-based beta-carotene for food and beverage applications.

Marcus Lovell Smith, the biotechnology company’s chief executive officer, told NutraIngredientsUSA.com what GRAS status confirmed: “We can offer a natural provitamin A alternative for use in dietary supplements. Also our natural β-carotene can be safely used as a food ingredient in numerous dairy and baked food products as well as processed fruits, vegetables and juices.”

Beta-carotene is used as a food additive mainly for its ability to deliver color to beverages, margarines, dairy products, baked goods, and a variety of processed foods.

Dietary supplements

Smith said that the new beta-carotene will provide the same benefits to customers as the current market forms provitamin A activity for dietary supplements, colorants for food and beverages plus the bio-based process reduces reliance on non-renewable ingredients as starting materials.

The company’s beta-carotene is produced in Yarrowia lipolytica that has been metabolically engineered to produce high quantities of beta-carotene. “The organism has a long history of safe association with food and is well suited to growing in traditional fermentation schemes at manufacturing scale,” said Smith. The carotenoids are extracted from the organism using methods similar to those used for other natural producers of beta-carotene.

Meanwhile, Microbia is seeking partners in the United States to produce and distribute Yarrowia-based carotenoids to customers and consumers in the dietary supplement, food and animal feed markets.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it had developed microbial strains that could produce commercially significant levels (more than five grams per liter) of lycopene via fermentation for the dietary supplement market.

Lycopene sales

After safety studies the first lycopene sales could start as early as this year. “There are over 600 carotenoids found in nature, and we are confident that our technology can be tuned to make any number of them cost effectively,” said Smith.

The company’s Y. lipolytica technology can be expanded beyond carotenoids, he added, to produce any number of lipophilic (fat-loving) compounds using fermentation-based methods for use in the dietary supplement, food additive, and industrial chemical markets.

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