Walnut powder, mushroom extracts and black sesame seed for the immune system; hawthorn berries, sour apple, bitter gourds and gamma-aminobutyric acid for reducing blood pressure; and wild white soya beans for iron supplementation - all doing a roaring trade in China - could provide new inspiration for UK food manufacturers looking to cash in on the functional foods boom, according to findings from a trade mission.
A delegation of UK food manufacturers and academics, which visited China late last year, identified a host of active ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine that could be incorporated into foods and drinks in the UK.
The next step was to shortlist the most promising among the 8,000 ingredients approved by the Chinese State Food and Drug Authority, find out what clinical trials (if any) had been done to test their efficacy, and talk to regulators about the evidence needed to make health claims about them in Europe, said mission leader Bob Marsh.
He added: “Claims for Chinese herbal medicines suggest a huge pharmacopoeia of diseases, which can be treated using single or multiple plant phytochemicals. In recent years, considerable effort has gone into trying to understand the scientific basis of these claims at both the China Agriculture University and China Agriculture Academy in Beijing. Parallel approaches are being taken in UK universities, but without the rich tradition and culture of plant materials on which to draw.”
The mission was co-ordinated by the UK government’s Food Processing Knowledge Transfer Network, which links industry and research institutions.
To obtain a copy of a report about the mission, log on to http://www.globalwatchservice.com