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Rosemary extracts get final EU approval for food preservation

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 27-Oct-2010
Last updated on 27-Oct-2010 at 14:52 GMT

Rosemary extracts have received recognition as safe and effective antioxidants for food preservation, according to new directives published in the European Commission’s official journal.

The directives specify the range of applications for which the extracts can be used, including fats and oils, bakery products, meats, dehydrated soups and potatoes, as well as nutritional supplements, such as fish oils. They also clarify that “dietary exposure resulting from the proposed uses and use levels were of no safety concern”, confirming EFSA’s scientific opinion of the extracts’ safety issued in March 2008.

Three rosemary extract producers – Naturex, Robertet and Raps – joined forces in 1996 to form the European Rosemary Extracts Manufacturers Group, in order to put together the necessary data for European approval. Following EFSA’s opinion, it has taken about two years for the European Commission to write amendments to the EU directives and have them approved by member states.

Food preservation business manager at Naturex, Baptiste Demur, told FoodNavigator.com: “The latest news will boost further the demand for antioxidant rosemary extracts as some major food companies were waiting for clarifications of the regulatory status and the final EU-approval to use rosemary extracts in their products.”

Demand for natural preservatives has increased over the past several years, as consumers have demanded fewer unfamiliar and artificial ingredients.

“It has been a very fast growing market,” Demur said. “[Before] rosemary extract was labelled as ‘natural flavour’ or ‘rosemary extract’ with no qualification of the activity. It has been a grey area… The clean label trend and the natural trend is growing very quickly and if food manufacturers wanted to have a stable product they didn’t have very many options.”

Under the clarified rules, manufactures will need to label the ingredient: ‘antioxidant: extract of rosemary’ or ‘antioxidant: E 392’.

“Obviously ‘antioxidant: extract of rosemary’ is more advantageous in terms of labelling,” Demur said. “It is a very consumer-friendly name.”

He added that the EU directives are also important as they identify the two main components responsible for rosemary extracts’ antioxidant effect: carnosic acid and carnosol. Therefore, it is important that food and dietary supplement makers are aware of the levels of these components in the extract they use, Demur said.

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