The decision, published on 12th November, supports extending the categories in which thaumatin can be used to include food flavourings, salt substitutes, soups, sauces and snacks, energy-reduced breakfast cereals, jams and jellies, food supplements and alcoholic beverages. The risk assessor has also given its stamp of approval to an increase in the maximum use level from 0.5 mg per litre to 5 mg per litre in flavoured drinks.
The application to extend thaumatin’s use into these categories was lodged by French ingredients firm Naturex, which manufactures the natural fruit extract under the Talin brand.
Explaining why Naturex chose to focus on these particular categories in the application, the company’s food & beverage business manager, Amandine de Sanit, told FoodNavigator:“We have targeted applications in which Talin is effective and provides benefits. The increase in the maximum use level to 5 mg per litre in beverages will definitely help beverage manufacturers to overcome some formulation challenges.”
She described the ability to use thaumatin in food supplements in both solid and liquid forms - and not only in syrups and chewables as is currently the case - as a great move.
“I’m thinking in particular about effervescent tablets, dilutable sticks and shots in which Talin can help mask the aftertaste and bitterness of some actives,” she said, adding that being able to include thaumatin as a food additive in food flavourings would lead to new opportunities for the flavour industry, which is always looking for new natural taste modifers.
More than a partner for stevia
As a natural sweetener that is capable of masking the bitterness of stevia, thaumatin often crops up in this context. However, de Santi was keen to emphasise that its potential stretched beyond off-flavour masking in stevia-sweetened products.
“Talin can improve the taste of not only stevia, but also many other sweeteners. What’s more, Talin is also very effective at reducing the off-taste of salt substitutes, which is why an extension of usage in this application has been submitted. In savoury applications like soups, sauces and snacks, it can also increase the flavour perception and thus enable salt reduction,” she said.
Prior to the EFSA opinion, thaumatin was already approved in the EU in chewing gum, energy reduced or no-sugar-added sugar confectionery and edible ices, tabletop sweeteners, dairy and non-dairy desserts and syrup and chewable food supplements, at various maximum usage levels. Its use was also permitted in flavoured drinks at a maximum usage level of 0.5 mg per litre, which Naturex said was too restrictive in some formulations.
Despite being given the green light from EFSA, there are still some formalities before thaumatin can legally be used in these additional categories.
“The next step, which will officially allow our customers to use Talin in these new applications, will be the publication of the amended Annex II and III of the EU Regulation 1333/2008, most likely during the first semester of 2016,” said de Santi.
There will still be some categories in which the sweetener isn’t approved for use in Europe, namely: non-energy reduced (with added sugar) confectionery, breakfast cereals, jams, jellies and marmalades and edible ices.