ISPs: ultra-low fat, but with GM on the label?

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Related tags: Milk, Metabolism, Protein

Unilever could struggle to find a European market for its controversial ice-structuring protein (ISP) if regulators force it to tell consumers that...

Unilever could struggle to find a European market for its controversial ice-structuring protein (ISP) if regulators force it to tell consumers that the ingredient has been manufactured using genetically modified (GM) yeast, experts have warned.

The ISP helps produce near-zero fat ice creams by influencing the formation of ice crystals during manufacture to create a creamy taste and texture without fat. They also allow the formulation of "products with more intense flavour delivery, a wider range of novel textures and more intricate shapes", according to Unilever.

The UK's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes said it was satisfied that the ISP was safe for human consumption.

However, it added that Unilever should inform consumers that the ISP was manufactured using a GM yeast, even though no GM material would be present in the end product.

While other food ingredients derived from GM micro-organisms (such as enzymes used as processing aids) were not labelled as GM, the use of a synthetic gene sequence, and the presence in the ISP of a significant proportion of cellular by-products from the fermentation process, made this a "special case", the committee said.

Unilever said it didn't understand why it had been "singled out". A spokesman said: "GM micro-organisms like chymosin used in cheese production are not labelled. However, it may be that we can provide this information in other materials or on the website rather than on the actual product label."

Although the ISP is already used in ice cream in markets such as the US, Australia and New Zealand, Unilever must gain approval under the Novel Food Regulation to distribute it in Europe.

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