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DSM to increase omega-3s capacity in light of dietary reference intake review

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By Hank Schultz

Last updated on 28-Aug-2014 at 17:57 GMT

The move by Canadian and US health authorities to look at the establishment of a dietary reference intake for omega-3s will be a boon both for public health and the health of the market for these important nutrients, omega-3s supplier DSM says.  The company is responding by increasing capacity at its fish oil extraction facility in Canada.

The joint panel received nominations for 16 nutrients to undergo reviews.  Of these, the committee selected four: Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, sodium and magnesium.  DSM is an important supplier of vitamin E, and is the world’s leading supplier of EPA and DHA.

Omega-3s are one of the most intensively researched dietary ingredients, with decades of studies looking at cardiovascular benefits and with new efficacy evidenced piling up in terms of inflammation, cognitive health and other indications.  With all of that backing, the question is, what took so long?

Recent science

Bill Turney, DSM’s head of regulatory affairs for North America, said the establishment of dietary reference intakes is inherently conservative. After all, the first evidence for omega-3s stems from the 1970s, whereas data for other nutrients dates back 100 years or more in some cases.

“They looked at this last in 2005, and then the data used was only from about 2001,” Turney told NutraIngredients-USA.  “So now you are talking about 15 more years of research behind these nutrients.”

Turney said there is no telling at this point where the committee will come down as far as daily dosage is concerned. But he said he expects some of the international standards already in place to be influential in the process when the authorities get to work in 2015.

“If we look at  the international picture, there is a lot of science supporting a 250 mg daily dosage of EPA and DHA.  EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) and others have established that level as the minimum to make claims.  This panel is a collaboration between US authorities and Health Canada and at Health Canada they certainly do look at EFSA for examples,” Turney said.

“If that 250 mg level were established in North America it would open up the food market for ‘good source of’ or ‘excellent source of’ claims for 10% or 20% of that level,” he said.

Healthy market

The omega-3s market has suffered of late with some equivocal studies and attendant negative mainstream media publicity depressing sales. In the past 18 months the market in North America saw its first declines both in sales and in number of consumers.  Many observers see this being a temporary blip, but have also said that the market is maturing, and even as sales swing back into positive territory, the days of double digit growth are probably over.

DSM remains bullish on the market and announced this week a plant to invest $30 million to upgrade and expand the omega-3s production facility in Mulgrave, Nova Scotia it acquired when it bought Ocean Nutrition Canada in 2012.  That acquisition added on to DSM’s earlier purchase of Maryland-based Martek Biosciences Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of DHA from microbial fermentation. 

The move to increase capacity in Nova Scotia resulted in part  from an agreement signed with Nova Scotia Business, Inc. (NSBI) that entitles DSM to earn significant rebates through NSBI’s Strategic Investment Funds in exchange for the creation and maintenance of new jobs in the life sciences sector. DSM is now of of the province’s biggest employers in the life sciences industry.

"This investment of $30 million is another example of DSM's ongoing commitment to the nutritional industry in North America as well as to the communities in which our people live and work," said Hugh Welsh, president of DSM, North America. “We have high confidence in the science of omega-3s as well as the future market for omega-3s”.

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