Kraft seeks exclusive approval of plant sterols in low-fat cheeses

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 14th January 2009

Kraft Australia has requested approval from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to use phytosterol esters in their low-fat cream cheeses and low-fat processed cheeses.

Phytosterol esters, commonly known as plant sterols, are prepared by the reaction of phytosterols with fatty acid methyl esters or free fatty acids. They occur naturally at low levels in common vegetable oils and have been reported as an effective way to reduce cholesterol absorption.

Cream cheese on bread with plant sterols

Phytosterols are classified as a ‘novel food’ for food regulation purposes, which means that they are not a traditional part of the Australian and New Zealand diet. Phytosterol esters are considered to be novel food ingredients because they do not have a history of significant human consumption by the broad community in Australia and New Zealand at the proposed levels of dietary exposure. They have, however, been introduced to a number of food products in recent years due their nutritional properties.

To date, FSANZ has approved the use of phytosterol ingredients in edible oil spreads (i.e. margarines), breakfast cereals, low-fat milk and low-fat yoghurt to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food. Coca-Cola recently applied for approval to use plant sterols in fruit juices for the first time.

Kraft has requested exclusive permission for the addition of phytosterol esters to low-fat processed cheese and low-fat cream cheese for a period of 15 months after approval (if approval is granted).

FSANZ anticipates completing their assessment by mid-May, with public comment allowed subsequently. Assuming no concerns are established, approval will be officially provided in early December.