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Maize-based nut substitute targets allergen-free market

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 03-Sep-2012

Maize-based nut substitute targets allergen-free market

Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients (LCI) has introduced a maize-based nut substitute ingredient to add a nutty taste and texture to food products without introducing nut allergens to food facilities.

LCI said that its ‘Nutricorn Nuts’ ingredient may help food manufacturers achieve cost savings in comparison to nuts like almonds and hazelnuts, while reducing fat content in formulations, adding fibre and increasing shelf life – but its main benefit is to provide an allergen-free alternative to nuts.

“Thanks to their tasty, nutritional and clean label aspects, nuts can be used in many applications,” said marketing manager at LCI Patricia Panel-Dusséaux . “However, nuts are one of the major allergens in Europe and have limited shelf life due to the high risk of lipid oxidation.”

Under European regulations, tree nuts and peanuts are among 14 potential allergens that must be highlighted as ingredients in pre-packaged foods, along with soybeans, mustard, eggs, lupin, milk, fish, gluten-containing cereals, sesame, celery, sulphur dioxide, molluscs and crustaceans.

The ingredient is made from toasted corn germs that are sieved to control particle size. The toasting process produces a nutty flavour and aroma, the company said, while their lower fat content in comparison to nuts may also make them easier to process.

Panel-Dusséaux added that tree nut price fluctuations were another driver behind the development of Nutricorn Nuts, as corn prices tend to vary less from crop to crop.

“Finally, a very important benefit is that the product is suitable for nut allergy sufferers,” said Panel-Dusséaux. “By using maize grain as raw material, nut allergens are not present in formulations, and it is possible to avoid contaminating facilities with nuts.”

Although many foods carry ‘may contain’ allergen labels, such labels are not regulated and are generally added at a food manufacturer’s discretion. According to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), this means that different producers use different criteria and allergen thresholds, so the ‘may contain’ label may represent different levels of contamination, and therefore different levels of risk.

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