Company insight

his April, Progress Biotech became only the third company in the world to receive EU approval for the use of its high DHA algal oil in infant formula. Following the favourable scientific opinion published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in October 2020, the EU has now published the regulation authorising Progress Biotech to place its high DHA algal oil on the market as a novel food for infant formula. This recent regulation is the result of the full, comprehensive novel food approval process in which EFSA specifically evaluated the use of the Progress Biotech DHA algal oil.

Algal DHA for infant use T

Progress Biotech are proud of this achievement, as Peters explains, “DHA has many benefits for brain and eye health, especially in infants, and it is essential for breastfeeding mothers, but fish oils are not very sustainable and not very pure,” he remarks. “Contaminants, including heavy metals, can be stored in the fat of the fish.” Algae are a circular, sustainable and cleaner source.

The power of DHA DHA is a primary structural component of the human brain and retina, and Progress Biotech, which is based in the Netherlands,

produces high-quality DHA products that originate from the widely accepted algae species Schizochytrium. The importance of DHA to the development of babies in utero, and in their early years, has been firmly established in scientific studies. Progress Biotech already holds an EU novel food licence for the use of its algal oil as a food, and has now been given approval to use it as an ingredient for infants. “Many people want to use infant formula, which often contains DHA from tuna oil,” Peters explains. “The WHO’s recommended dosage of DHA recently doubled and, in the EU, there is an obligation to put DHA in infant formula products. With the growing movement towards plant-based products and the need to increase the consumption of DHA, there is more and more interest in algal products.”

Plant-based DHA oil for everyone Peters began developing algal oil in 2011 as an omega-3 that does not exacerbate the problems associated with the fish supply chain. As consumers become more aware of the benefits of preventative healthcare, as evidenced by the growing consumption of supplements worldwide, they are also becoming more conscious of how foods and ingredients are sourced and are

Purer benefits

While fish may have been exposed to many contaminants in the water, algae production is fully controlled and delivers full traceability from petri dish to final product. “For infant formula, this is extremely important, because there are strict rules on contaminant levels,” Peters explains. “The fish supply chain has many quality standards, but no one knows where the fish have been or what they have been exposed to; for example, agrochemicals that have been dumped into the sea.” Purity is one very important factor, but taste is another. Most omega-3 products have a pungent colour, taste and odour, all of which need to be masked. Often, they are taken in large gel capsules that are opaque to hide sediments and other impurities. Algal oils, by contrast, can be taken in smaller doses in clear capsules and still achieve the same potency, or be used as an ingredient without harming the quality of the final product. “We made a choice to create something different,” explains Peters. “After many years of development, we created oils with no odour, no taste and no colour. This is not just for capsules. We have even worked with producers of chocolate bars fortified with DHA, which was thought to be impossible.” As an ingredient, algal oil has the edge over fish oils, and the next generation of newborns is about to reap its benefits. ●

DHA is especially important for infants and breastfeeding mothers, but regular fish oils can be impure. Ingredients Insight / 17

Omega-3s are vital pillars of a healthy body and are often referred to as fish oils, but the polyunsaturated fatty acids they provide don’t need to come from fish. Jaap Peters, Progress Biotech’s founder and CEO, explains how DHA derived from algae is a potent, pure and more versatile alternative.

engaging with the efficacy and practices of different food and ingredients suppliers. “Consumers are aware that industrialised food processes are driven by profit – lower cost and higher volume – but not always by the quality of ingredients,” says Peters. People know about algae now and with that in mind, plant-based omega-3 offers benefits to everyone, not just those are who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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