Unilever Bestfoods in the UK has joined the race to make healthier ice creams by applying for Food Standards Agency approval for a genetically modified ingredient it says deliver low-fat benefits without compromising on taste. The ingredient uses genetically modified baker's yeast containing an ice structuring protein derived from the blood of a North Atlantic fish called an ocean pout.
However both the yeast and the fish blood are removed during processing with the ingredients label noting only 'ice-structuring protein.' It is believed this process can remove ice cream fat without altering taste.
Unilever, which owns Wall's, Magnum, Carte D'Or and Ben & Jerry's, already employs the ingredient in some products in its US Brevers brand and Unilever is likely to add it to its UK and European brands.
The move has attracted some negative reaction with some environmental and health groups slating the GM origins of the ingredient and others questioning the concept of healthy ice cream. Unilever said it was attempting to provide healthier options of all its foods. It is unlikely the ingredient will hit the market until 2008 if it attains UK and European regulatory approval.
It is the third company in recent weeks to signal its intention to develop the low-fat ice cream market following Dutch company Unimills, developing a fat-reducing technique in ice cream. Pennsylvania-based FMC Biopolymer recently launched an ingredient it noted could cut ice cream fat to five per cent while Danish ingredients giant, Danisco, has commercialised ingredient suites aimed at healthy ice cream makers.