Food enzymes are biocatalysts that make the processing of food ingredients, e.g. starch, economically viable but also allow for tremendous innovations in the nutrition sector, like alternative low-calorie sugars or prebiotics.
Many foods are produced with the help of enzymes, e.g. baking products, or starch-derived goods. Sometimes the enzymes themselves are used as food ingredients (e. g. papain, lactase) and sometimes as processing aids.
Food enzymes are generally processing aids and as such not clearly regulated in the EU. This means that enzymes used for the manufacture of foods require an authorization according to the common authorization procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavorings (Regulation (EU) 1331/2008). The specific requirements for food enzymes are laid down in Regulation (EU) 1332/2008.
Food enzymes can be extracted from natural sources like plants, animals, bacteria, or fungi, and are often obtained from genetically modified microorganisms.
The evolution of technologies for tailoring enzyme properties for specific purposes and for manufacturing them on a large scale in microorganisms has triggered – and driven – disruptive innovations in food manufacturing. Hence, food enzyme applications are often closely linked to novel food applications, and a missing enzyme authorization might slow down the authorization of a novel food.