The FDA just issued a final ruling approving spirulina as a color additive in candy and chewing gum. The final ruling was granted after a petition by candy giant Mars, Inc. takes effect September 13.
This extract of the cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis (A. platensis) occurs naturally in freshwater and marine habitats and has a long history as a food in many countries. According to the FDA in the final ruling, “because the amount of the color additive used in food is self-limiting, there is no need for a specific upper limit for the color additive or phycocyanin content. Therefore, we are limiting the use of spirulina extract in candy and chewing gum to amounts consistent with good manufacturing practice.”
This is the first natural blue food coloring approved in the U.S. market, although natural blue food additives have been approves elsewhere. Food additive supplier GNT USA is working with the FDA to expand the use of spirulina beyond candy and chewing gum. With the addition of a natural blue food additive, companies have the ability to produce new colors and shades, blending spirulina extract with other natural additives.
Based upon tests, the FDA determined it is unlikely to be an allergen and presents an insignificant allergy risk. “Certification of spirulina extract is unnecessary for the protection of the public health,” it concluded. Spirulina is sold already as a food supplement, which does not require FDA approval.
Studies reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center indicate that spirulina abounds in protective carotenoics, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Early, non-human studies suggest spirulina may boost the immune system, provide some protection against allergic reactions and confer antiviral and anticancer benefits. For example, studies in test tubes showed improved growth of L. acidophilus and other probiotics. However, researchers caution, there is no proof yet that those benefits carry over to people.