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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Oct;63(10):1161-8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.56. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Safety of protein hydrolysates, fractions thereof and bioactive peptides in human nutrition.

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Schaafsma Advisory Services in food, health and safety, Rembrandtlaan 12, Scherpenzeel, The Netherlands.


This paper evaluates the safety for humans with regard to consumption of protein hydrolysates and fractions thereof, including bioactive peptides. The available literature on the safety of protein, protein hydrolysates, fractions thereof and free amino acids on relevant food legislation is reviewed and evaluated. A new concept for the safety assessment of protein hydrolysates and fractions thereof is developed. Benchmarks for the evaluation are safety of total protein intake, safety of free amino acid intake, documented history of safe use, outcome of questionnaires in efficacy studies and safety studies. Similar to the intake of intact proteins with a history of safe use, the intake of hydrolysates made from them, does not raise concern about safety, provided the applied proteolytic enzymes are food grade and thus of suitable quality. The safety of hydrolysates and of fractions thereof, including the so-called bioactive peptides, should always be assessed by the company before market introduction (company safety assessment). Only when a novel protein source is used or a novel production process is applied, which results in significant changes in nutritional value, metabolic effect or increased level of undesirable substances, that products might fall under novel food regulations. This means that company safety assessment should be reviewed and approved by external independent experts (external safety evaluation) and the novel protein hydrolysate (fraction) is authorized by competent authorities before market introduction. It is argued that good judgement on the safety of hydrolysates and the fractions thereof can be obtained by comparing the anticipated intake of amino acids by these products with those levels to be reasonably expected to be ingested under normal conditions of consumption of a balanced and varied diet. The paper shows a decision tree that can be used for safety assessment.

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