The European Union has approved Unilever’s application to use Ice Structuring Protein (ISP), which the company uses in ice cream to lower fats by 50%, improve the stability of the product and reduce production costs. This new ingredient was originally isolated from an Arctic fish and reproduced in a laboratory through the fermentation of genetically modified yeast.
ISP can now be used across the 27 EU Countries in the production of ice cream, and is already being used in products sold in the US, Australia and Mexico. According to Unilever, ISP can help reduce the fat and calorie content of products by up to 50 percent and its ability to improve the stability of ice cream also allows for higher fruit content, an improved taste, better structure and slower melting.
Unilever has stated that there is no GM residue found in the ISP. Unilever’s external affairs director Anne Heughan explained “synthetic ISP gene is inserted into genetically modified yeast, and then this is fermented. The protein is then separated from the yeast by micro-filtration and concentrated by ultra-filtration. This removes all yeast cells from the ISP preparation. EFSA and the member states have independently confirmed that the ISP is not genetically modified.”.
However, this is contrary to warnings from the Italian Genetic Rights Foundation, which cited research carried out in 2006 by the Independent Science Panel. This survey shows that Unilever’s protein is not entirely equivalent to that naturally produced by the Arctic fish, and that it is not an allergen, due to its derivation from genetically modified yeast.
The new product will be simply labeled as “ISP protein”, in accordance with the current EU legislation, which doesn’t consider cases like the Unilever one to be regulated as GMOs.