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New era in added value foods could dawn with EU approval of organic selenium feed additives

[Dublin, Ireland] -- Commercial availability of effective organic selenium supplements in the EU could open up a new era of added value food products for livestock farmers throughout the region, according to nutrition researcher and consultant Dr. Peter Surai.

In his recently published book, Selenium in Nutrition and Health*, Surai outlines the major human health benefits of improving dietary selenium content and points to a range of animal-derived foods -- including eggs, meat, milk and milk products -- in which there are opportunities for selenium enrichment.

With applications for organic feed supplements based on selenium yeast currently being assessed by the EU feed additives authorities, Surai believes primary producers across the livestock sectors could soon have new opportunities to develop higher value custom-produced brands that will meet the growing demand for functional foods.

"There is now widespread recognition of the importance of optimum selenium status in human health, and particularly in relation to the prevention of cancer," said Surai. "It is also widely known, specifically in Europe, that diets are often marginal and sometimes deficient in this important trace element.? The enrichment of staple foods with selenium will I believe, become of increasing interest to the general population, if not governments. There are already a number of success stories outside the EU of selenium-enriched foods, so we know that the processes of supplementing livestock and developing commercial products are both practical and economic to achieve. There are twelve poultry companies in Russia producing several million selenium-enriched eggs daily, selenium-enriched pork is now sold in restaurants in Korea, and products such as SELK (selenium-enriched milk) being marketed in Korea."

Surai makes the point that staple foods such as eggs, meat and milk are both affordable and also meet the required criteria for effective food supplementation strategies of being consumed regularly by the majority of people in moderate amounts. Selenium enrichment through this route is therefore considered to be safer and more effective than alternative strategies, such as the widespread application of fertilizer on agricultural land.

"Organic selenium sources are now approved for human and animal consumption in many parts of the world, including the USA, Japan, Latin America and much of Asia. There is a plethora of evidence showing that the organic sources promote higher levels of selenium in milk, meat and eggs, therefore creating these opportunities for added value products and helping solve problems related to global selenium deficiency," said Surai.? "Primary producers and food processors across the board within the EU are in the hands of the regulatory authorities in Brussels, as dossiers on organic selenium products are currently being assessed. There is an expectation that decisions will be made in 2006, so it could be sooner rather than later that we see a wide selection of selenium-enriched foods on our shelves."

Note to editors:

Peter Surai is a lecturer and researcher with primary interests in aspects of antioxidant metabolism including selenium in relation to animal nutrition, reproduction and functional food production. He has more than 500 research publications devoted to this subject including 160 papers in peer-reviewed journals. He began his academic career at Kharkov University, Ukraine, where he later became head of department of Physiology, Biochemistry and Nutrition at the Poultry Research Institute (Ukraine). He continued his antioxidant-related research in Scotland from 1994 and in 2000 was made a full Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at the Avian Science Research Centre of the Scottish Agricultural College. He was recently awarded an Honorary Professorship in Nutrition at the Szent Instvan University, Godolo, Hungary; he has also received an Honorary Professorship from Glasgow University and a visiting Professorship at Trakia University, Bulgaria.

* Selenium in Nutrition and Health, Peter F. Surai, Nottingham University Press, April 2006.

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