The development comes as the health functional food industry has proposed to do so, against the backdrop of vitamin K2’s wide applications in health supplements overseas.
As part of the ministry’s efforts in understanding vitamin K2’s use, minister Oh Yu-Kyoung visited the production site of local vitamin K2 manufacturer, GF-Fermentech, on November 15.
GF-Fermentech produces vitamin K2 through a fermentation technology using Bacillus subtilis subsp. Natto isolated in Chunggukjang – a Korean traditional fermented soybean paste.
This is followed by supercritical extraction, crystallisation, and microencapsulation of the ingredient, as vitamin K2 could be easily degraded when in contact with alkali salts, such as calcium and magnesium, which are also commonly used in health functional foods.
The company said that its ingredient, marketed as MediQ7 Vitamin K2 (MK-7), could improve bone and cardiovascular health, as well as preventing osteoporosis by inhibiting the accumulation of calcium in blood vessels.
Han Jeong Jun, CEO of GF Fermentech, said during minister Oh’s visit that his company has been manufacturing vitamin K2 for the export markets and hoped that the ingredient could be used in the domestic market.
“We succeeded in manufacturing vitamin K2 with our own technology developed domestically, but it was unfortunate that it could not be used in domestic health functional foods,” he said.
Currently, only vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, protein in the notified health functional food ingredient list, as well as ingredients listed in the Food or Food Additives code could be used in health functional food.
According to the Health Functional Food Code 2021, there are 28 nutrients and 68 functional ingredients that could be used to manufacture health functional foods.
However, vitamin K2 is not part of the list, although the MFDS had announced in September that it planned to establish new specifications and usage standards for vitamin K2 as a nutritional fortifier in health functional foods.
This is part of the ‘Food and Drug Regulatory Innovation 2.0’ task, which the MFDS has aimed to approve ingredients that are already allowed in other countries but not yet permitted in South Korea.
The aim is to increase the pool of ingredients that could be used to formulate health functional foods.
“Expanding the nutritional ingredients that could be used as health functional food ingredients will help maintain people’s health and improve their quality of life.
“We will quickly complete the approval of vitamin K2 as a raw material [for health functional food use] by March next year,” said minister Oh.