Italian media have cried foul over Unilever's plans to sell ice creams containing fish antifreeze proteins this summer. The European Commission granted marketing authorization in April, but ice creams containing ice structuring protein (ISP) derived from fish will not be available in Europe until next year. Approval came “too late for this summer, in time for 2010,” says Anne Heughan, external affairs director for Unilever, of London and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Several hundred million ice creams containing ISP have already been sold in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Brazil. The antifreeze ISP, produced in yeast engineered with a gene from the fish Macrozoarces americanus, provides stability and texture to low-fat products by inhibiting ice-crystal growth. In Europe, labels won't include the words genetically modified (GM) because processing aids fall outside the GM food regulation (1829/2003). Antifreeze proteins are widely distributed in nature but Heughan says Unilever selected fish ISP “for all the benefits, from creaminess to nutritional content.” Applications for antifreeze proteins could be numerous as recrystallization reduces the palatability of all frozen foods. Ice cream came first because mixing is easy, whereas delivering antifreeze proteins into tissues, for example in shrimp, is more difficult, explains Dan Yang of Dundas, Ontario, Canada's Ice Biotech.
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Meldolesi, A. GM fish ice cream. Nat Biotechnol 27, 682 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0809-682b