Microbial Biotechnology

Electronic Journal of Biotechnology ISSN: 0717-3458 Vol. 9 No. 4, Issue of July 15, 2006
© 2006 by Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso -- Chile Received July 8, 2005 / Accepted January 20, 2006
DOI: 10.2225/vol9-issue4-fulltext-12  

Safe use of genetically modified lactic acid bacteria in food. Bridging the gap between consumers, green groups, and industry

Wilbert Sybesma
Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences
Diedenweg 20, 6703 GW Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel: 31 317 485 383
Fax: 31 317 485 384
E-mail: info@wcfs.nl 

Jeroen Hugenholtz
NIZO Food Research
Kernhemseweg 2
PO Box 20, 6710 BA, Ede
The Netherlands
Tel: 31 318 659511
Fax: 31 318 650400
E-mail: jeroen.hugenholtz@nizo.nl 

Willem M. de Vos
Wageningen University
Department of Microbiology
Hesselink van Suchtelenweg 4, 6703 CT Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel: 31 317 482105
Fax: 31 317 483829
E-mail: willem.devos@wur.nl 

Eddy J. Smid*
NIZO Food Research
Kernhemseweg 2, PO Box 20, 6710 BA, Ede
The Netherlands
Tel: 31 318 659511
Fax: 31 318 650400
E-mail: eddy.smid@nizo.nl

*Corresponding author

Financial support: Commission of the European Union through contract QLK1-CT-2000-01376 “Nutra Cells”.

Keywords: lactic acid bacteria, genetic modification, legislation, safety assessment, novel foods


DRI: daily recommended intake
NICE: nisin induced controlled expression system
EFFCA: European Food and Feed Culture Association
GRAS: Generally Recognized As Safe
LAB: lactic acid bacteria
QPS: Qualified Presumption of Safety
PMS: post-market surveillance

Full Text

Within the European Union (EU), the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production is not widely applied and accepted. In contrast to the United States of America, the current EU legislation limits the introduction of functional foods derived from GMOs that may bring a clear benefit to the consumer. Genetically modified lactic acid bacteria (GM-LAB) can be considered as a different class of GMOs, and the European Union is preparing regulations for the risk assessment of genetically modified microorganisms. Since these procedures are not yet implemented, the current risk assessment procedure is shared for GMOs derived from micro organisms, plants, or animals. At present, the use of organisms in food production that have uncontrolled genetic alterations made through random mutagenesis, is permitted, while similar applications with organisms that have controlled genetic alterations are not allowed. The current paper reviews the opportunities that genetically modified lactic acid bacteria may offer the food industry and the consumer. An objective risk profile is described for the use of GM-LAB in food production. To enhance the introduction of functional foods with proven health claims it is proposed to adapt the current safety assessment procedures for (GM)-LAB and suggestions are made for the related cost accountability. A qualified presumption of safety as proposed by SANCO (EU SANCO 2003), based on taxonomy and on the history of safe use of LAB applied in food, could in the near future be applied to any kind of LAB or GM-LAB provided that a series of modern profiling methods are used to verify the absence of unintended effects of altered LAB that may cause harm to the health of the consumer.

Supported by UNESCO / MIRCEN network