The European Union has approved the artificial sweetener tagatose.

Spherix Incorporated, which owns the sweetner, said the EU had formally approved tagatose as a “novel food ingredient” which would permit the use of the sweetener in a wide variety of products.

The EU decision follows approvals of tagatose by regulatory agencies in the US, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, and by JECFA, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.

Tagatose is a low-calorie, natural sweetener that tastes and acts like table sugar.

“The European market is a tremendous opportunity for tagatose,” said Spherix’s president and CEO Richard Levin. “With news of increasing obesity rates around the world, tagatose will now open new opportunities for European food makers.”

The EU approval of tagatose is without any restrictions on usage. However, since tagatose is considered to be a fibre and is absorbed slowly and incompletely, food products containing more than 15 grams of tagatose per serving and beverages with a tagatose content of more than 1% must display the same type of informative statement that polyol-containing products are required to carry.