The European Commission (EC) has approved an expansion of the uses of microalgae oil derived from Schizochytrium sp in food supplement and infant nutrition applications.

The 20 July approval allowed companies to use Schizochytrium oil in food supplements, food intended for infants and young children, special medical applications and total diet replacement for weight control, Nutraingredients wrote on 23 July.

“The designation of the novel food on the labelling of the foodstuffs containing it shall be ‘Oil from the microalgae Schizochytriumsp’,” the EC said in the ruling.

The EC also set out specific conditions under which the algal oil could be used. In food supplements, maximum levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – which is plentiful in the oil – could not exceed 250mg DHA/day for general population and 250mg DHA/day for pregnant and lactating women.

Spreadable fats and dressings could contain up to 600mg/100g of the algal oil, while cooking fats had a maximum limit of 360mg/100g.

Milk-based drinks and similar products intended for young children and foods intended to meet the expenditure of intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen, were allowed an upper limit of 200mg/100g, similar to bakery products.

The EC decision came on the tails of applications for the algal oil’s use from several food and food supplement companies.

Expanding its use was first requested in November 2016 by Canadian Mara Renewables Corp, followed by Nutraveris and BASF in late 2017.

DHA and other long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids were traditionally harvested from marine fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, but the potential of heavy metal contamination and overfishing have brought the sustainability of such activities into question.

The Schizychytrium sp microalgae had been promoted as a sustainable alternative to fish oil due to its fast growth rate, independency of weather condition and 49% DHA content, according to Nutraingredients.