Immunity benefits: China adds soy protein isolate, whey protein to health foods raw material directory

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

China health foods authorities are adding soy protein isolate into the country’s Health Food Raw Material Directory – Nutrition Supplement. © Getty Images
China health foods authorities are adding soy protein isolate into the country’s Health Food Raw Material Directory – Nutrition Supplement. © Getty Images

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China health foods authorities are including soy protein isolate and whey protein to the country’s Health Food Raw Material Directory – Nutrition Supplement, which means that products containing these two ingredients could make specific health claims.

The specific health claim permitted for the two ingredients is “strengthening immunity” ​and companies could claim the above for their soy protein isolate and whey protein products from October 1, 2023.

Since the two ingredients are added into the Directory, companies can market the products after completing the filing process. Otherwise, companies would need to go through the registration process, which is more time consuming and costly.

Dietary protein has garnered attention in China during COVID-19, with a survey​ showing that over 95 per cent of the Chinese population believe that dairy protein could confer immunity-boosting benefits.

E-commerce giant JD also told us previously​ that protein powder was one of the best-selling nutritional products on its platform for its perceived benefits for immune health.

According to a notice​ jointly published by the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR), National Health Commission (NHC), and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine on June 14, soy protein isolate or whey protein products that provide between six and 25 grams of protein could claim to strengthen the immunity.

However, such products are unsuitable for children and teenagers, with individuals that are suffering from low immunity due to a lack of protein intake the intended audience.

The authorities also do not recommend protein supplementation for individuals who were not suffering from protein deficiency, while individuals with compromised kidney functions should consume it with caution.

Pregnant, lactating women should also consult health professionals before consumption.

The authorities added the two ingredients to the Directory following a public consultation​ held between December 2021 and January 2022.

DHA added

In addition, DHA algae oil is added to Health Food Raw Material Directory – Nutrient Supplement (2023), expanding the list to 24 raw materials.

The authorities have set the minimum and maximum daily intake of DHA algae oil for adults at 200 and 1,000mg respectively.

DHA algae oil products can specifically claim the function of “supplementing n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA)”​.

According to the authorities, DHA algae oil is produced by fermenting Schizochytrium sp., Ulkenia amoeboida ​or Crypthecodinium cohnii.

Health claims for n-3 PUFA  

At the same time, n-3 PUFA has been added to the Health Function Catalogue Allowed for Health Food Claims - Nutrient Supplements (2023).

Before the addition of n-3 PUFA, the catalogue contains a list of health food claims only meant for vitamins and minerals.

With the addition of n-3 PUFA, products are able claim “supplementing n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA)”​ and supplement the claim with either of the following three statements.

The first statement is that “n-3 PUFA provides fatty acids essential to the body”.

The second talks about how “dietary intake of n-3 PUFA should consist 0.5 to two per cent of total energy”.​  

The third statement is about how n-3 PUFA could “help maintain blood lipids (triglycerides) at a healthy level.”

Health food products could supplement their claims with statements listed in the catalogue, however, they are not supposed to make any changes to the statements.  

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