The EU has approved vitamin product Metafolin for European use in dietary supplements and dietetic foods – a step that its Swiss manufacturer has told just-food will serve consumers with a better alternative to folic acid.

Metafolin, produced by research company Merck Eprova AG, has been included in the positive list of vitamins covered in two Directives voted by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) today (9 March). It has already been given the all clear in the US, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2001.

Metafolin product manager Roger Weibel told just-food: “Being added to the list opens the door to the European supplement market. Our idea is to run a global approach here.”

Folic acid, contained in foods including leafy green vegetables and fruits, is widely used as a dietary supplement during pregnancy to prevent spinal and neural birth defects. It is metabolised by the human body before it can exert its vitamin function – a disadvantage Metafolin is designed to capitalise on.

Weibel continued: “One of the benefits is that the human body can use it directly in comparison to folic acid which is not a natural vitamin, it is a pro-vitamin. Folic acid takes four metabolic steps, which can be difficult in some cases due to enzyme activity. Metafolin provides the body directly with an active metabolite of the body.

“Another advantage is the bioavailability of Metafolin in comparison to folic acid, and it is more homogenous from person to person. This means if you take Metafolin it ends up in your blood but if you take folic acid there is variation.”