Mimicking mother’s milk: Morinaga Milk Industry to focus on probiotic applications in infant formula

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Morinaga Milk Industry announced its proprietary probiotic Bifidobacterium longum BB536 has received self-affirmed GRAS for infant formulas ©Getty Images
Morinaga Milk Industry announced its proprietary probiotic Bifidobacterium longum BB536 has received self-affirmed GRAS for infant formulas ©Getty Images

Related tags: Probiotic, Infant formula, Morinaga

Japanese dairy giant Morinaga Milk Industry, a probiotic strains supplier, has plans in the upcoming year around to expand the application of its functional proprietary probiotic strain into infant formula, to aid with gut health and immune protection.

Morinaga’s Bifidobacterium longum​ BB536 strain​ was first isolated from the gut of a healthy breastfed infant in 1969 and commercialised in 1977.

BB536 is a clinically proven multifunctional probiotic strain and is based on more than 180 scientific studies​ done over the years.

Cultured awareness

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, Dr. Wong Chyn Boon, research associate at Morinaga Milk Industry Co. Ltd., said more consumers, especially mothers, were gaining awareness of the host of benefits of probiotics in infant formula.

In the past, consumers were more concerned with omega-3 in formula, but this is now changing, she said.

Wong said: “The current trend is the addition of prebiotic and probiotic, which essentially mimics the composition of human breast milk.

“Consumers are more aware of the health benefits of probiotics, particularly how it can help support the growth of infants, especially when the infants are not naturally born, or not breastfed​.”

The good bacteria

She added that healthy breastfed infants tended to have an abundance of bifidobacterium​.

“Bifidobacterium-rich microbiota is thought to have an immune-protective role as it creates an acidic environment, by producing metabolites that is considered to be hostile to pathogen growth.”

In the other hand, studies have shown that formula-fed infants are less frequently colonised by beneficial bacteria.

Hence there is now more attention in incorporating probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium​ and lactobacilli​ and undigestible oligosaccharides (prebiotics) that help to stimulate Bifidobacterium​ growth in infant guts. 

In terms of the science, Wong cited several studies that highlight the health benefits of BB536.

“We found incorporating BB536 into formula can improve gastrointestinal disorders of infants​,” she said, adding that it can reduce the risk of developing allergies, atopic dermatitis, and eczema in infants. 

Thirdly, the presence of BB536 in infant guts can support healthy growth​ in premature infants by shortening the time for them to reach full enteral feeding, she said.

Core strain

The BB536 strain will be the focus of the firm’s​ product innovation strategy in the year ahead.

Wong said: “Morinaga wants to increase the awareness about selecting the right probiotic for infant products. We want to educate consumers on this matter.”

Meanwhile, the firm recently announced that it is awaiting GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status approval from the US FDA, to incorporate BB536 into infant formula.

It previously attained self-affirmed GRAS status following a comprehensive evaluation by an independent panel of qualified scientific experts.

“Along with an exceptionally long history of safe use in humans, as published in the review, the safety and efficacy of BB536 continues to be undoubtedly proven through solid science, leading to the receipt of self-affirmed GRAS approval,​” the company said.

This greatly allows us to diversify the application options available to our customers.”

The new approval is applied to products for new-borns to 12 months old, and is an addition to the previous GRAS status in 2009 which covered products aimed at children and adults.

They expect to receive FDA approval in about six months.

BB536 has been used as a functional food ingredient in various products such as milk-based drinks, yogurt, infant formula, and nutritional supplements and has been marketed in over 30 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific for more than 40 years.

BB536 is manufactured in two different plants, namely Tone Plant located at Ibaraki Prefecture and Fukui Plant located at Fukui Prefecture.

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