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US Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service approves higher level tomato lycopene in processed meats

The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) announced on 5 August 2014 that they are allowing a higher level of tomato lycopene extract and concentrate colorant in ready to eat/processed meat. Processed meat manufacturers are now allowed to use tomato lycopene extract at a maximum of 50 mg/kg and to use tomato lycopene concentrate at a maximum of 100 mg/kg.[1] Previously lycopene extract was allowed at a maximum of 10 mg/kg and tomato lycopene concentrate at a maximum of 20 mg/kg.

Adding red colorants to processed meats

Some processed meats can turn grey in color when exposed to certain lighting and oxygen, which is undesirable to many consumers. Since this is not a food safety issue the USDA FSIS allows red colorant to be added to processed meats but at a level that will not result in an adulterated product or one that will mislead consumers.[2] This can be done provided the product is labeled as Artificially Colored. Until this approval of lycopene at higher allowable levels, carmine was the choice of colorant to be used in some processed meat products as noted in the USDA FSIS Directive 7120.1 Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products.[3] Unfortunately since carmine is derived from insects[4], the ingredient is not considered desirable by some consumers and retailers, so lycopene derived from tomatoes provides an alternative to those consumers and this higher allowable level provides a stronger pink color desired by manufacturers.

SGS is committed to keeping you informed of regulatory news and developments. Leveraging our global network of laboratories and food experts, SGS provides a comprehensive range of food safety and quality solutions including analytical testing, audits, certifications, inspections and technical support. We continually invest in our world class testing capabilities and state-of-the-art technology to help you reduce risks, and improve food safety and quality. For further information please visit our website www.foodsafety.sgs.com.


[1] FSIS New Technology Information Table

[2] FDA


[4] FDA- CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

Email SGS Hong Kong Ltd. at mktg.hk@sgs.com for enquiries or visit http://www.sgsgroup.com.hk/.

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