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Senomyx calorie-cutting sucrose enhancer gets FEMA GRAS

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 27-Oct-2009

Senomyx has received notification from the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) that its new sucrose enhancing flavor ingredient is GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

Companies have been increasingly replacing part of the sugar in their products with non-caloric sweeteners and flavor enhancers in response to demand from consumers for lower calorie foods. Senomyx claims that its new enhancer for sucrose (table sugar) – called S6973 – could enable manufacturers to achieve sugar reductions of up to 50 percent while maintaining the flavor of sugar.

President and chief operating officer at Senomyx John Poyhonen told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “For years people have looked to reduce the amount of sugar in their products but the major issue has been taste.”

On a product’s ingredient panel, the ingredient would be listed as an ‘artificial flavor’. “But it does not have any taste on its own,” Poyhonen said. “It can only be used in combination with sucrose.”

He explained that the company used its research into sweet taste receptors in the mouth to develop the sucrose enhancer, a project that it has been working on for years.

“All things that go into the mouth will bind with taste receptors in the mouth,” he said. “This flavor interacts with a sweet receptor and makes it more efficient.”

It is this increased efficiency of the sweet receptor that means manufacturers can use less sugar, while consumers still perceive the same level of sweetness. And although sugar plays a functional role in many products, in terms of bulk and texture for example, Poyhonen said that most of the major food and beverage companies have developed methods to replicate these characteristics due to widespread use of high-intensity sweeteners to reduce sugar content.

“Food manufacturers have been under pressure to reduce sucrose while still maintaining that great taste,” he said. “That technology already exists…I think the biggest difference is that it’s not a sweetener itself.”

The GRAS status for S6973 covers its use in baked goods, cereals, gum, condiments and relishes, confectionery, frostings, dairy, fruit ices, puddings, candy, jams, and sauces. However, it does not cover beverages, although Senomyx said it is still evaluating sucrose enhancers that could be useful for drinks, as they have “specific requirements due to packaging and storage conditions utilized by the beverage industry.”

CORRECTION: This article has been amended from a previous version that stated that S6973 had received FDA GRAS, as opposed to FEMA GRAS. Senomyx clarified that FEMA's expert panel determined S6973 to be GRAS and its conclusions were provided to the FDA and published in the journal Food Technology.

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