FDA Approves Spirulina Extract

17 December, 2014

The following excerpts were taken from the article The wait is over for a natural blue! FDA approves spirulina as food color in US as Mars petition gets green light by Elaine Watson, published in Food Navigator 14 August 2013.

The FDA’s decision to give the thumbs up to spirulina as a source of blue color in candy and gum finally gives US firms a natural alternative to artificial FD&C Blue #1 (‘brilliant blue’) and opens up new opportunities in natural greens, say color suppliers.

While several natural blue and green colors are approved in other markets, US manufacturers have had more limited options.

DD Williamson VP Branding & Market Development Campbell Barnum said the approval would “create more hue options, and it will be a helpful addition to the toolkit of blended solutions in confectionery.”

A blue-green filamentous cyanobacteria (algae) that occurs natural in freshwater and marine habitats, spirulina can be used as a food color in the US in candy and gum from September 13, said the FDA:

“The FDA is amending the color additive regulations to provide for the safe use of spirulina extract made from the dried biomass of the cyanobacteria Anthrospira platensis (A. platensis), as a color additive in candy and chewing gum in response to a petition filed by Mars, Inc.

“We are establishing ‘spirulina extract’ as the common or usual name for this color additive instead of the proposed name ‘spirulina blue’ because it more appropriately describes the additive.”

Studies showed no toxic effects at the doses that were tested.

In addition to specification limits for lead, arsenic, and mercury, the FDA will require hat spirulina extract used as a color test negative for mocrocystin toxin, which is produced by some species of cyanobacteria that could be potentially present in the water where A. plantensis is grown and harvested, it said.

“We focused our review primarily on the safety of phycocyanins because these pigments are the main coloring components of the additive. As part of our safety evaluation, we estimated the exposure to phycocyanins from current and proposed food uses of spirulina-derived ingredients.
“The petitioner [Mars, Inc] provided a number of published studies that investigated the toxicity of various spirulina powder extracts. The results of these studies showed no toxic effects at the doses that were tested.”

The FDA also looked at allergenicity, it said.

“We reviewed a comparison of the known amino acid sequences of phycocyanins with the sequences of known protein allergensand determined that there is a low probability that the phycocyanins are protein allergens.”

FD&C Blue #1 (‘Brilliant Blue FCF’) is used in a variety of applications beyond candy and gum, including cake icing, ice cream, canned peas, bottled food colors for retail, ice pops, and liquers such as blue curacao.

To read the entire article on Food Navigator, click here.

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