Soft drinks have been criticised for their role in dental decay, as the acids they contain have a de-mineralising effect on the surface of the tooth which can lead to erosion.
Even diet soft drinks tend to be acidic in order to prevent bacteria in the product. According to Kati Leskinen, project manager at Toothfriendly International, previous efforts to make toothfriendly soft drinks have been unsuccessful either because of bacterial contamination or because the taste provided by other sucrose alternatives was unacceptable.
However Swiss-based Bishofszell product overcomes the taste issue by using isomaltulose, a sugar found in small concentrations in honey and sugar cane and which is resistance to decomposition by oral bacteria. Used in Asia for some time, isomaltulose only received novel foods approval in Europe in 2005, making it a relatively new ingredient for this market.
Acid-free composition is made possible by the aseptic process used to bottle the product.
The beverage has received the approval of Toothfriendly International, a non-profit organisation for better oral health, and may bear the ‘Happy Tooth’ logo.
The certification was given following positive performance of the drink in scientific tests conducted at the University Dental Institute of Zurich, in which it was seen not to depress the plaque pH below 5.7.
Leskinen told FoodNavigator.com that the pH test was developed several decades ago and has become the industry standard for ascertaining effect on teeth. In the US, the Food and Drugs Administration requests this test for all products making ‘safe for teeth’ claims.
She said that the new health claims regime “presents no problem for using the tooth friendly claim and logo”.
Isomaltulose’s tooth friendly property is included in the European Commission’s draft list of health claims allowed until 2010, when the final list will be drawn up.
“It is on the pre-list and we have every reason in the world to think it will be on the final list.”
Unlike xylitose, which has received approval for a health claim on preventing dental caries, isomaltulose’s claim is non active.
Bishofszell’s beverage will go on sale in Swiss Migros stores this spring, and is expected to be launched in the UK and Germany this week.
Although Bishofszell’s is the first ice tea to bear the Happy Tooth approval, other beverages containing isomaltulose have been launched on the market.
Many of these are in the energy drink category, leveraging the slow energy release of the sweetener.
A search of Mintel’s Global New Products Database showed up 15 new isomaltulose-containing launches last year, and 16 the year before.
In addition to energy drinks, the data shows some launches in the mineral water segment, candies, and even in a drinkable probiotic yoghurt from Yakult Honsha in Japan.