USDA Raises Tomato Lycopene Limit for Meat

In a game-changing move, the USDA approved a five-fold increase in the level of tomato lycopene allowed as a colorant in ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products.

This increase allows tomato lycopene colorants from manufacturers like LycoRed Ltd., Israel, to effectively replace FD&C Red #40 and carmine in a wide assortment of deli meats, sausage and hot dogs. LycoRed’s Tomat-O-Red® produces red hues similar to those from artificial and insect-based colors.

Natural food-color applications for global meat product launches, as tracked by Innova Market Insights, showed a 21% increase in product launch activity in 2012 over 2011, and a further 5% increase in 2013 from 2012.

“The USDA decision changes the ballgame for us,” says Roee Nir, Colorant Business Unit Manager at LycoRed. “We now may offer RTE meat manufacturers dramatic color options that previously were only attainable with artificial or insect-derived colors.” Both of the LycoRed clean-label colorants are acceptable for use in RTE beef, pork and poultry products, as well as RTE meats for the fast-growing kosher and halal markets. Kosher and halal rules forbid products colored with carmine.

The heat- and light-stable colorants are based on lycopene, a carotenoid highly valued for its antioxidant health benefits.

Tomat-O-Red® is sourced strictly from non-GMO tomatoes. LycoRed oversees production from the farmer’s fields to the finished product. This dependable tomato supply also translates into stable pricing for the processed meat manufacturer. Soon, LycoRed will be launching new, natural tomato-based ingredients for clean-label use.

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