The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has informed the company that it does not have any issues to raise with its application to register the bitter blocker - adenosine monophosphate - as Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS). This clears the compound to be used in food and, by extension, pharmaceuticals.
GRAS status may be based either on a history of safe use in food prior to 1958 or on scientific procedures, which require the same quantity and quality of evidence as would be required to obtain a food additive regulation.
Linguagen noted that AMP is a natural compound that can block the bitter taste that can occur in certain products such as drugs. In 2003, a patent exclusively licensed by Linguagen was issued for these uses and AMP was declared GRAS when a panel of three independent scientific experts reviewed the compound.
After receiving the GRAS determination, Linguagen voluntarily submitted the AMP safety package to the FDA for review.
AMP is the first chemical known to inhibit the taste of bitterness by altering human perception instead of masking flavour with sweeteners or other substances. The compound blocks a protein called gastducin, a receptor that seems to be intrinsically involved in registering bitter tastes in the mouth. Linguagen was granted a US patent on the technology in April 2003.
There is growing interest in flavour science for both pharma and food applications, with one company, Senomyx, signing a string of collaborations with food companies on the strength of its work on the genetics behind taste.
While there are only thought to be two receptor for sweetness, research to date suggest there are at least 20 receptors for bitterness, perhaps reflecting the importance of being able to identify poisons in our food.