Safety considerations of plant polysaccharides for food use: a case study on phenolic-rich softwood galactoglucomannan extract
A growing population and concern over the sufficiency of natural resources for feeding this population have motivated researchers and industries to search for alternative and complementary sources of food ingredients and additives. Numerous plant species and parts of plants are explored as raw materials for food production. An interesting example is wood; to date, only a few wood-based additives or ingredients are authorized for food use. Wood hemicelluloses, such as softwood galactoglucomannans (GGM), constitute an abundant bioresource that shows a high potential functionality in edible materials. Spruce GGM acts as a multi-functional emulsion stabilizer, and it could be used in various processed food products, replacing less effective, conventional emulsifiers. Before new materials can be released into the food market, their safety must be evaluated, according to the Novel Food regulation. This review focuses on the safety aspects that must be considered before polysaccharide- and phenolic-rich plant extracts can be awarded the status of authorized food ingredients. In this review, GGM is presented as a case study and examples are given of plant-based polysaccharides that are already authorized for food purposes. The legislation regarding Novel Food ingredients in Europe is also briefly reviewed.