European Union allows expanded micro algae oil use as novel food

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The European Commission (EC) has extended the use of micro algae oil after BASF, Nutraveris and Mara Renewables notified the Commission of their intention to market the oil as a novel food.

The ruling​ allows the oil from the micro-algae species Schizochytrium sp.​ strain T18 for use in food supplements, food intended for infants and young children, special medical purposes, and total diet replacement for weight control.

“The designation of the novel food on the labelling of the foodstuffs containing it shall be “Oil from the microalgae Schizochytriumsp,”’​ the ruling said in additional labelling requirements.

The EC set out specific conditions under which the novel docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich algal oil may be used.

For food supplements, maximum levels not exceeding 250 milligrams (mg) DHA/day for general population and 450 mg DHA/day for pregnant and lactating women are permitted.

Milk-based drinks and similar products intended for young children and foods intended to meet the expenditure of intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen were permitted to use 200 mg/100 grams (g) of the oil.

Processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children as defined in Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 were also restricted to 200 mg/100 g.

Raft of submissions

The EC’s decision comes after several Novel Food Applications were submitted for the use of Schizochytrium sp​.-derived DHA-rich oils in a variety of foods.

On 21 November 2016, Canadian-based firm Mara Renewables Corporation made a request to the UK authorities for an extension of the oil’s use.

The application requested its use for all foods authorised by Implementing Decisions (EU) No 463/2014 and (EU) 2015/545, and extend its use to fruit and vegetable purees.

In January 2017, the company notified the Commission that it placed the novel food ingredient ‘oil on the Union market. The company intended to use this novel food ingredient in all previously authorised foods under Implementing Decision (EU) No 463/2014.

Nutraveris and BASF followed suit in late 2017 with its intention to place the novel food ingredient on the market with plans to use it in previously authorised foods under Implementing Decisions (EU) No 463/2014 and (EU) 2015/545.

Around the same time UK authorities issued its initial assessment report concluded that the use of the oil met the criteria for novel food set out in Article 3(1) of Regulation (EC) No 258/97.

Rapid microalgae growth rate

Traditionally, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as DHA, are obtained from marine fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Fish oil is at present the major source of DHA.

However, heavy metal pollution and overexploitation of the sea-fish resources jeopardise the sustainability of this source.

One alternative that has shown much promise is the microalgae Schizochytrium sp, ​which can be utilised as alternative to fish oils due to its rapid growth rate, its weather condition independency and its DHA content, which make up almost 49% of its total fat content.

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