CLA approved as food ingredient

July 25, 2008

by Michael Penn

“This is the first time so far as I know that a novel nutritional component discovered at a university has made it all the way to FDA-approved food ingredient status.”

Michael Pariza

On July 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its finding that conjugated linoleic acid, known as CLA, is "generally regarded as safe" for use in foods. This clears the way for CLA, a healthy type of fat found in meats and dairy products, to be used as an ingredient in foods and beverages sold in the United States.

Researchers in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have been studying CLA since the 1970s. During the past two decades, Michael Pariza, director emeritus of UW-Madison's Food Research Institute, has discovered a number of health-promoting properties in CLA, including the ability to fight cancer and reduce heart disease. Along with animal sciences professor Mark Cook, Pariza has found that CLA can help reduce body fat. Pariza and Cook have been awarded several patents on CLA technology, which are among the highest income-generating patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Because CLA is often removed in the process of making low-fat dairy products, many Americans consume only small quantities of it. CLA supplements have been sold for nearly a decade, but the FDA ruling will allow food producers to create new products, including drinks, bars and yogurt, that contain CLA.

"This is the first time so far as I know that a novel nutritional component discovered at a university has made it all the way to FDA-approved food ingredient status," says Pariza.