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Novel foods, EFSA green light for protein from barley and rice grains from upcycling of beer by-products

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) expressed a scientific opinion in favor of the authorisation novel foods of partially hydrolysed protein from barley and rice grains, obtained by upcycling of the co-products of beer. (1)

1) Hydrolysed proteins from barley and rice grains, the novel foods

Il novel foods proposed by Evergrain LLC (ABInBev group) is a powder obtained from the concentration of proteins extracted from barley grains (vulgar hordeum) and rice (Oryza sativa) which remain from the beer production process, thanks to an enzymatic process followed by mechanical processes.

The enzymes used (glucoamylase, pullulanase, serine protease) come from recombinant, genetically modified microorganisms of the species Aspergillus niger e Bacillus licheniformis. The risk assessment focused on demonstrating the absence of recombinant DNA (< 10 ng DNA/g) and viable live cells in the product, as required in the EFSA guidance on the submission of dossier for food enzymes. (2)

Many colorants of the novel foods as a food ingredient they are manifold, in a variety of products intended for the general population (see Fig. 1). The proteins vegan, sold in 20 kg paper bags, can be stored at room temperature for 15 months thanks to their low humidity.

Fig. 1 – List of foods in which the use of the novel food has been proposed by the applicant, together with the percentages of use (EFSA NDA Panel, 2023)

2) Production process

Production of the novel foods under examination is divided into two phases, enzymatic and mechanical.

2.1) Enzymatic phase

The threshers which remain from the mashing and filtration phase of the must are subjected to pasteurization and placed in a bioreactor for the protein hydrolysis phase, with the addition of water in a predefined ratio. Mixing follows under stirring, at a temperature > 68° C, at atmospheric pressure, for 3 hours.

The mixture is brought to operating temperature (not known) and treated with a mix of glucoamylase and pullulanase from recombinants for 45 minutes, to hydrolyze the starch. After pH correction to 9.0, recombinant serine proteases are used (B.licheniformis) to hydrolyze proteins. A heat treatment deactivates the enzymes,

2.2) Mechanical phase

The residues solids and the protein extract are separated by centrifuges, in a tank of extraction. The precipitated solids are washed out with water, pressed with a screw press if necessary, to aid protein recovery and increase yields (as well as reduce moisture content and improve stability). The protein liquid is instead subjected to microfiltration (0.1 um at 70-80° C), with different step diafiltration cycles to increase the recovery of proteins in the permeate (the phase separated from the filter).

The fraction withheld from the filter contains fat and fiber, as well as high molecular weight proteins. It is therefore subjected to nanofiltration, to obtain a product with about 20% solids, of which 85% are raw proteins. Evaporation then makes it possible to increase the concentration of solids up to 50%, which are subjected to pasteurization and spray drying, to obtain the protein powder that is stored in Containers and/or packed in paper bags.

3) Nutritional properties, protein digestibility

The protein powder hydrolysed from barley and rice grains contains approximately 85% protein, 6% carbohydrates, < 2% fat, with an energy value of 367 kcal/100 g. The content of vitamins and minerals, and of anti-nutritional factors normally present in cereals (e.g. phytates, tannins, lectins, trypsin inhibitors) is considered to be in line with conventional foods. The introduction of novel foods in the EU it therefore does not present any risk of nutritional disadvantage.

The digestibility of the hydrolysed proteins of barley and rice grains – evaluated with the DIAAS method, which measures the fecal or intestinal absorption of their amino acids – is equal to 65%, not far from the minimum value attributed to good quality proteins (75% ). It decreases variably, with a DIAAS value in the range 38-63%, when added to other foods. On the other hand, it is scarce in infants (0-6 months) and young children (6 months - 3 years), at 45% and 55% respectively.

Il panel scientific NDA (Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens), in EFSA, therefore assessed the fate of this as inappropriate novel foods to the group 'newborns up to 6 months'. Also highlighting the possible nutritional security risks for other population groups with a low intake basic protein, when thresh proteins replace other sources of higher quality proteins. (3)

4) Toxicity and allergenicity

Consolidated employment history of raw materials barley and rice in human nutrition, their use in the brewing sector and the extensive use of grain as feed has led EFSA not to request toxicological studies on the candidate novel foods under exam.

Barley is already present in the list of allergens referred to in Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, Annex II, due to gamma-3 orders and non-specific lipid transport proteins. As well as possible cross-reactivity with wheat, rye, oats and Job's Tears.

The rice – although not on the list of allergens subject to mandatory specific information in the EU – it contains some proteins that can cause allergic reactions (alpha-amylase inhibitors, beta-expansins, profilin A). And cross-reactivity is also present in rice with barley, oats, wheat, rye, soybeans, corn, field pollen, and triticale.

5) Data protection, possible exclusivity

The European Authority for Food Safety (EFSA) acknowledged that many data and studies presented by the applicant were necessary to draw conclusions on the safety of the new food. The applicant submitted a data protection request and some studies submitted.

The European Commission he will therefore have to decide whether to grant Evergrain LLC a five-year exclusivity on the authorization novel foods. So as to prevent others, for the following 5 years, fromupcycling of proteins from grains in the manner indicated (unless obtaining a license from Evergrain or submitting a new request for authorisation).

6) Other feedstuffs from grains, barley, rice

Novel Food Catalog, the dossier of the consultation processes in this regard and the Union list of novel foods (EU Regulation 2017/2470) indicate other foods that can be obtained, used or marketed from the grains or their sources, and the related conditions of use (4,5,6 ,XNUMX).

6.1) Trebbies

By itself the threshings – characterized by fibers and some protein fractions, together with a low chaff content – ​​are considered traditional foods. The European Commission has expressed itself in this sense in a consultation process activated by the Netherlands on two powders with 50% and 70% of proteins, intended for use as ingredients in biscuits and wholemeal bread. In this regard both the absence of a significant chemical change in the structure of the food and the simplicity of the production process were considered, based on the data provided by the applicant. The chaff alone is conversely considered to be a novel foods.

6.2) Barley

The barley cereal it is traditionally used both as food, in various forms (e.g. soluble barley, pearl barley, flakes, malt, juice, etc.), and as an ingredient in various foods (e.g. soups, cereal-based products, stews) and beverages (e.g. beer, whisky, malts), as well as for animal feed.

6.3) Rice

The tradition of consumption rice food is also consolidated, in Europe as in other continents. Rice bran oil itself, extracted from the aleurone layer and germ, is not considered to be a novel foods.

Fungal fermentation of rice and pea concentrates made it possible to obtain a powder with a high protein content (> 75%), which was instead subjected to the authorization procedure novel foods. (7)

7) Provisional conclusions

Vegetable proteins object of the EFSA scientific opinion in question demonstrate how research and innovation can be usefully directed towards paths of upcycling aimed at enhancing the by-products. The circular economy applied to food systems makes it possible to:

– produce food and/or food ingredients, with both possible advantages of reducing raw material costs and/or increasing the added value of final products,

– reduce food losses and waste (in this case food loss),

– minimize the burdens and costs of environmental management of waste,

– create new economic and job opportunities.

#wasteless (8)

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) EFSA NDA Panel (2023). Safety of partially hydrolysed protein from spent barley (Hordeum vulgare) and rice (Oryza sativa) as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. EFSAJournal 21 (9): 8064, https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2023.8064

(2) EFSA CEP Panel (2021). Scientific guidance for the submission of dossiers on Food Enzymes. EFSAJournal 19 (10): 6851, https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6851

(3) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Foods of animal origin necessary for nutrition and health, FAO report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) European Commission. EU Novel food catalogue https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fip/novel_food_catalogue/

(5) European Commission. Consultation process on novel food status https://food.ec.europa.eu/safety/novel-food/consultation-process-novel-food-status_en

(6) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2470 of 20 December 2017, establishing the Union list of novel foods pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the Council on novel foods. Consolidated text as at 22.8.23 http://data.europa.eu/eli/reg_impl/2017/2470/2023-08-22

(7) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Novel food. Green light in the EU for proteins from mushrooms, rice and peas, insects, milk and new sugars. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(8) Wasteless – Waste Quantification Solutions to Limit Environmental Stress is an EU-funded project with the aim of developing tools and recommendations to measure and monitor food losses and waste. See the article by Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Wasteless, EU research project on circular economy and blockchainGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.9.22

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