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article imageβ-Carotene-rich microalgae granted FDA standing as food additive

By Igor I. Solar     Mar 16, 2011 in Health
Washington - The FDA announced having no questions on the status of the powder form of the microalgae Dunaliella bardawil, as a Substance Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as an ingredient in food products.
Dunaliella bardawil is a species of unicellular algae common in high salinity marine waters. The microalgae are relatively simple to cultivate and do not clump or form chains. Species of Dunaliella, such as D. salina and D. bardawil can thrive under high light intensity and salinity conditions, such as those present in salt-evaporation lagoons. Few organisms can live in such demanding environments. Dunaliella can survive by producing high concentrations of β-carotene to get protection against the intense light, and high concentrations of glycerol to gain protection against osmotic pressure and desiccation.
These algae are recognized for their anti-oxidant capabilities and some species have been used in open culture systems for the production of large amounts of carotenoids often used in cosmetics, health and dietary supplements.
Under normal, regular salinity and low light intensity, the plant microorganisms are green because of high concentration of chlorophyll. However, by exposing D. bardawil to harsh environmental conditions, such as high salinity in the presence of high light intensity, and high temperature (close to 40°C) and certain nutrients in low concentration, the algae can synthesize large amounts of β-carotene, producing an orange-reddish color. In a comparison of Dunaliella with the same amount of carrots, known to carry a high concentration of carotenoid, Dunaliella was found to have approximately 900 times the concentration of carotenoids in orange colored fruits and vegetables.
Microphotograph of Dunaliella cells. Courtesy of Dr. Ami Ben-Amotz.
Microphotograph of Dunaliella cells. Courtesy of Dr. Ami Ben-Amotz.
The determination of the FDA responds to a notification from Phoenix Regulatory Associates, Ltd. on behalf of the Japanese firm Nikken Sohonsha Corporation. Nikken declared that although the dried powder obtained from D. bardawil is a naturally produced red colour compound, it is not intended for use as a food color additive, but Dunaliella bardawil powder “is intended to be added as an antioxidant and/or as a nutrient supplement to the following selected food products: dairy products, cakes, mayonnaise and salad oils, pudding and custards, crackers and cookies, wheat noodles, bread/rolls, tofu, Kimchi and fermented soybean products.”
Prof. Ami Ben-Amotz  emeritus researcher of the National Institute of Oceanography and Chief Scienti...
Prof. Ami Ben-Amotz, emeritus researcher of the National Institute of Oceanography and Chief Scientist of Nature Beta Technologies Ltd., Eilat, Israel. [Courtesy of Dr. Ben-Amotz].
In the evaluation of the GRAS notification, the US – Food and Drug Administration concludes: “Based on the information provided by Nikken, as well as other information available to FDA, the agency has no questions at this time regarding Nikken’s conclusion that D. bardawil is GRAS under the intended conditions of use.” Prof. Ami Ben-Amotz, an expert on marine unicellular algae, physiology, biochemistry and biotechnology, emeritus of the National Institute of Oceanography, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) and Nature Beta Technologies Ltd., (NBT) Israel, considers the certification provided by the FDA on the GRAS notification presented by Nikken, “a significant step forward on using Dunaliella bardawil for human nutrition and health.”
Dunaliella bardawil production plant. Nature Beta Technologies Ltd.  Eilat  Israel. Courtesy Dr. Ami...
Dunaliella bardawil production plant. Nature Beta Technologies Ltd., Eilat, Israel. Courtesy Dr. Ami Ben-Amotz.
More about Microalgae, Carotenoids, Betacaroteno, Vitamin a, Food additives
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