Rosemary extracts to receive antioxidant status

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Flavor, Nutrition, Food additive

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said rosemary extract is
safe for use as an antioxidant in food, expanding application
opportunities and increasing its natural appeal.

Rosemary extracts are derived from Rosmarinus officinalis​ L and contain several compounds proven to have antioxidative functions, thus slowing down or preventing the oxidation of molecules. This can help increase product shelf life and stability when added to food. Industry members began applying for rosemary extract to be accepted as an antioxidant more than 10 years ago as some European member states said the additive could no longer be described as a flavouring extract because it provided progressively less flavour to the end product. As a result, the Commission asked EFSA's panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) to explore the safety of the additive's principal antioxidative components phenolic diterpenes carsonol and carnosic acid. In its recently published report, it said: "The panel is of opinion that the margin of safety is high enough to conclude that dietary exposure resulting from the proposed uses and use levels are not of a safety concern." ​ The decision means rosemary extract will now be added to an official list of acceptable food additives for use in food, and gains an E number. However, companies can choose to label it as 'antioxidant: rosemary extract' to maintain a natural nutritional profile. Rosemary extract in the market​Leading rosemary producers have welcomed the opinion, saying the affirmation of its safety will expand opportunities for using rosemary extracts in food products. Jacques Dikansky, president and CEO for plant extracts firm Naturex, explained the company invested in toxicological studies and initiated the application process as countries such as France only tolerated it being labelled as a flavouring extract while an application for acceptance as an antioxidant had been filed. He said: "We are very pleased with the result after working for 10 years for this. A lot of large international companies are already using rosemary extract in their products, but this will increase the natural appeal of their products while extending possibilities."​ Dushka Dimitrijevic, project manager for Slovenian botanical extracts company Vitiva, told "EFSA's positive decision of rosemary extract safety for food applications is good news for rosemary extract manufacturers and consumers alike. "The status of rosemary extract for use in food applications is finally clear and all the existing doubts of some customers will be gone now." ​Dimitrijevic added that this will lead to the introduction of new clean label products on the market, and will help consumers choose between foods preserved with synthetic antioxidants and those preserved more naturally. Both companies provide a range of ingredients based on rosemary extracts that use rosemary's antioxidant qualities to limit oxidation and thus improve product stability. Safety opinion ​The AFC said rosemary extracts evaluated had low acute and sub-chronic toxicity when examined in 90-day feeding studies on rats. It was found that there was a slight increase in relative liver weight at high doses, but this effect proved to be reversible. However, these effects represent an adaptive response and are not of toxicological concern, said the scientific body. Additionally, it said the toxicological data on the rosemary extracts are insufficient to establish acceptable daily intake amounts, as it does not provide reproductive and developmental toxicity or long-term studies. However, the panel said it was unlikely opinion at the proposed uses and use levels, estimates described as "conservative",​ do not pose a risk.

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