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 Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)


E 300 | Antioxidant
Possible use of gene technology Labelling
Producible with the aid of GM microorganisms no
Raw material GM maize possible
Enzymes produced with the aid of GM microorganisms no



Vitamin C fulfils various functions:

  • it activates the cell metabolism, stimulates the defense functions of the immune system and is responsible for the composition of connective tissue;
  • it has a strong antioxidant character, meaning it "deactivates" aggressive harmful oxygen compounds (free radicals).

Other than with animals, the human body cannot form vitamin C; it must be delivered via food. Today in industrial countries, a balanced diet rich in uncooked vegetarian food provides a sufficient amount of vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are especially rich in vitamin C; however, if they are heated at great length the vitamin C will be destroyed.


Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) has a wide application in many areas of food processing; for example: 

  • as antioxidant and colour stabiliser in meat and sausage; it supports the effect of nitrite (curing) salt in producing a rosy colour and blocks the building of toxic nitrosamines;
  • as flour treatment agent in almost all baking mixes (see also: baking goods, flour); it promotes the processability of the dough as well as the crumb- and pore building;
  • in canned and processed fruit and vegetables as well as in deep-frozen potato products (prevents browning);
  • to stabilise beverages such as wine, beer, fruit juices;
  • in products containing egg;
  • in butter, cereals;
  • as supplement of vitamins or in vitaminised food, ACE-products.

When utilised as an additive, vitamin C is declared on the list of ingredients with its chemical description as ascorbic acid.

Gene technology

The synthesis of vitamin C generally is carried out as a complicated, six step procedure (Reichenstein-Process). One of those processing steps is fermentational: the microorganisms (Acetobacter) deployed here are "conventionally" bred, meaning they are not genetically modified. Glucose that is won from maize starch with the aid of enzymes is used as raw material for this process.

  • Glucose or starch can be produced partly from GM maize. Enzymes applied for the production of glucose are made with the aid of GM microorganisms.

A company in the USA has developed a new production technique that applies GM microorganisms (Erwinia herbicola, Erwinia citreus). With this, the production process is reduced to two steps. It also is now possible directly to produce vitamin C and ascorbic acid respectively with the aid of GM micro-organisms. This procedure is assumed to be used in a few Asian countries which deliver large quantities of vitamin C to Europe.

  • The production of vitamin C and ascorbic acid respectively with GM microorganisms technically mature/fully developed and is used commercially. Detailed information about the Anwendungsstand is not available.

Labelling: ingredients and additives are subject to a labelling requirement if they have been directly produced from GM maize. Whether this applies to vitamin C and ascorbic acid respectivley, that are developed from maize starch and glucose respectively during multiple processing stages, is legally not yet explicitly clarified. In practice, it has been established that labelling will not take place.

Additives are not subject to a labelling requirement if they are produced in a closed system with the aid of GM microorganisms, provided that the additve is purified and does not contain any microorganisms.

Even if the microorganisms that were employed obtain their nutrients (substrates) from GM plants, the additive is not subject to a labelling requirement.

Enzymes and their manner of production are generally not declared on the list of ingredients.


November 30, 2005 [nach oben springen]

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