Previously DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) could be incorporated into infant foods, but the difficult-to-achieve novel foods approval has green-lighted for DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) to enter the food supply.
The approval opens up a potential market of more than one billion people with increasing disposable incomes and interest in western dietary habits to omega-3 players, but omega-3 awareness among consumers is some way off that in many western markets.
Leading omega-3 supplier Ocean Nutrition Canada worked for more than two years on its submission to the Chinese Department of Health, and said it would be establishing an office in Shanghai this year to meet an expected increase in demand.
It also has a distribution partnership with Chinese firm, Ruihua Hexin International.
ONC manager of regulatory affairs, Paul Browner, told NutraIngredients-USA.com that the novel foods approval applied to all food and drink categories.
“It’s been a very difficult process,” he said. “Not so much in the safety and efficacy standards in place, but there are many steps involved,much red tape, and the language barrier can be a problem. It has required a lot of patience.”
He said the company benefitted from having a Chinese company representative on the ground who could deal with DOH queries.
The approval is not specific to Ocean Nutrition Canada and any company can market products in China as long as they are shown to be substantially equivalent to those approved by the DOH.
“This opens up a whole new market and we are working through a strategy to bring products to market there now,” Browner said. “The opportunity is there now to add an important nutrient that wasn’t there before.”
While the Chinese diet has typically been high in fish and therefore less in need of omega-3 supplementation, western dietary habits are changing this dynamic and increasing the numbers of people who are omega-3 deficient.
“We are looking forward to working with the Chinese food and beverage companies that will be interested in fortifying their products with Omega-3’s for the benefit of their local consumers,” said ONC chief sales and marketing officer, Jon Getzinger, in a statement.