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First yeast-derived beta glucan approved as novel food in EU

By Oliver Nieburg , 22-Nov-2011

Health ingredients firm Biothera has been granted novel foods approval in the EU for its immune health ingredient yeast beta glucan and said there were prospects for manufacturers in a variety of food formulations.

Food manufacturers operating in Europe can now introduce products containing Biothera’s yeast beta glucan offering Wellmune WGP. Biothera said the ingredient has applications in almost any food including bakery, confectionery, beverages and infant formula.

Manisha Upadhyay of the UK’s Food Standards Agency told BakeryAndSnacks.com: “An application for incorporation of beta glucans from Saccharomyces cerevisiae into a range of foods, and supplements has been assessed under the EU novel foods regulation.”

“All member states voted in favour of approval at the Standing Committee meeting in October 2011, but the authorisation decision has not yet been published, “she said.

Yeast beta glucan is a natural carbohydrate derived from a proprietary strain of yeast that is said to offer immune health benefits.

US and other markets

Biothera made the application for EU approval following successes in supplying the ingredient to food manufacturers in the US, Canada and South America.

The ingredient has GRAS status in the US and has been approved as a novel food in China. Manufacturers are already using the beta-glucan outside the EU.

Canadian firm Leclerc uses Wellmune in its Praeventia cookies and snack bars, while Lassonde, another Canadian company, uses it in fruit juices, smoothies and soups.

Richard Mueller, Biothera president and CEO, told this site: “We see the same kind of opportunities if not greater in Europe. With novel food approval in the EU we see opportunities in Europe in every food category.”

He said his firm was already in discussions with major companies on the European market and added that there was potential for those already using the ingredient to expand Wellmune based products into EU countries.

Immune health

Mueller said there were others who had derivatives of yeast beta glucan, but claimed Biotheras’ was a different strain and backed by clinical trials.

He pointed to around 12 clinical studies that had taken place since the ingredient was developed.

Biothera claimed that one test at Southampton University in the UK found that Wellmune WGP reduced the duration of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms in medical students during a 90-day study during cold-flu season.

However, Don Cox, senior vice president and R&D at Biothera said that making health claims may be more difficult in Europe compared to the US, due to stringent EU standards.

Taste and processing

Biothera has invested $300m in its technology following several years of development.

“The compound is very stable and can withstand the processing temperatures and pressure in any food environment. It also has a very long shelf life,” said Mueller.

He added that the ingredient would not affect the efficacy of the product or taste and said no manufacturers using the ingredient had needed to change processing procedures thus far.

Future applications

Mueller said Wellmune would soon be in breads, such as loaves and rolls, but gave no indication as to which company would be introducing these products.

Cox added that the ingredient has applications in confectionery and some firms, such as Xan Confections and Good Cacao, had already introduced premium chocolate containing Wellmune.

He added that there may be an opportunity for the ingredient in chewing gum, though it has not been tested to date.

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