Expanding on the United States Food And Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2017 approval of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) safflower oil as both safe and nutritious for use in canine diets, Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., an agricultural food ingredient company, announced on March 15 that the FDA has granted further approval of the ingredient for use in cat food.

Arcadia’s Sonova GLA safflower oil is a highly concentrated source of GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid that has been used in human nutritional supplements since its approval by the FDA in 2009. GLA offers a number of benefits, including skin health and radiance, weight maintenance, premenstrual syndrome relief, and other contributions to general well-being. In pets, the benefits of GLA include reducing inflammation, improving metabolism, boosting the immune system and improving skin and coat health and shine. GLA is found in only a handful of plant-based oils, such as evening primrose oil and borage oil, which respectively contain around 10 percent and 20 percent GLA. In comparison, Sonova, the result of crop improvement by Arcadia’s researchers, contains 40 percent GLA, making it the most concentrated, cost-effective and reliable plant oil source of GLA available. 

Sonova is the only plant-based source of GLA approved for use as an ingredient in US pet food and was introduced to the US dog food market in 2018. In Canada, Sonova GLA safflower oil has been used in adult dry dog and cat food formulas since 2015.

“The FDA clearance of Sonova GLA for use in cat food is another example of our proven ability to improve crops’ nutrition and value as ingredients from concept to commercialization, as with our GoodWheat platform” said Raj Ketkar, president and CEO of Arcadia. “Sonova GLA will allow cat and dog food formulators to respond to consumer demand for natural, plant-based oils as wellness ingredients for their beloved companions.”

Watt Media reports that 63 percent of dog food formulations and 46 percent of cat food formulations include functional ingredients that offer special nutritional benefits in terms of general wellness or address specific health concerns such as digestion, joint and cartilage function, immune system strength or dental health. Fueling this trend is America’s increasing attention to health issues, both human and pet, which ties in to an aging and often overweight population. 

“Increasing the concentration of omega-6 fatty acid in the safflower plant by a factor of more than 40x showcases our ability to optimize plant-based sources of high value health and nutritional ingredients, added Matt Plavan, CFO of Arcadia, and president of Arcadia Specialty Genomics, the company’s strategic business unit dedicated to cannabis. “We are applying our proven innovation capabilities to the legal US hemp market, and as the regulatory pathway becomes clearer for novel pet foods ingredients like CBD and hemp oil, we expect our success in shepherding Sonova GLA through USDA and FDA regulatory processes will bring value to other growth segments in cannabis.”

Publication in the Federal Register completes the issuance of a new food regulation - Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR), part 573 – Food Additives Permitted in Feed and Drinking Water of Animals – that is “amended § 573.492 (21 CFR 573.492) to allow for the safe use of GLA safflower oil in dry food for adult cats, the current allowable concentration range for gamma-linolenic acid in the additive or the safflower oil blend was amended to incorporate the broader range supported by FAP 2302.”