The UK's novel foods committee concluded yesterday that Prolocol is 'substantially equivalent' to other phytosterols already available within the European Union.
It is likely to be first used by Sweden's Skane dairy, which made the application along with the ingredient manufacturer Triple Crown for use in milk-type and yoghurt-type products.
The ingredient is the only non-chemically modified plant sterol that can be put into low-fat products like milk, claims Kjell Sjoberg, current chief executive of Triple Crown.
"In order to make plant sterols fat-soluble, the molecule has to be modified. We don't do this - we formulate and stabilize them into a solution without using chemicals," Sjoberg told NutraIngredients.com.
He added: "This eliminates one of the steps commonly used by phytosterol manufacturers, which means the process is actually less expensive." He could not reveal prices of the ingredient, saying they would depend on volumes produced and demand.
Prolocol has been specifically designed for use in lower fat applications. "We believe that the contradictory message to eat fat to lower your cholesterol is holding back growth [of sterols]," says the company's website.
Other sterol makers have witnessed the fast take-up of cholesterol-lowering yoghurts and milk drinks when they have expanded into these categories from the original spreads. This allows them to offer consumers a variety of products from which to get their daily intake of sterols.
TaylorNelsonSofres figures show that the Benecol and Flora Pro.activ spreads had combined sales of 63 million in the year to October 2003 in the UK, the biggest market for sterol-based foods. The market is set to expand rapidly around Europe this year, as a wave of regulatory approvals for new applications increase the number of foods available with sterols.
Almost one fifth of global stroke events and more than half of global heart diseases are attributable to high cholesterol levels.
Triple Crown, which gained its first patent in 1998, is also part-owned by Sweden's Karolinska Institute. The company is looking for dairy partners, as well as supplement manufacturers, to license the product.