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Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010

Critter cake aimed at health nuts

TAKAMATSU, Kagawa Pref. (Kyodo) A sponge cake made with powdered single-celled organisms as its key ingredient might not sound appetizing, but its creators are betting it will become a hit with health-conscious sweets lovers.

News photo
Crawling with health: The "midorimushi kasutela" sponge cake contains millions of microscopic euglena in each slice. KYODO PHOTO

The "midorimushi" (euglena) kasutela (sponge cake)" contains millions of the microscopic single-flagella protists in each slice, making it a nutritious and increasingly popular snack in health-conscious Japan, its manufacturers say.

A unique organism that can photosynthesize and move like an animal in water, the euglena "contains all the nutrients essential for humans," including various vitamins, minerals, amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids, they said.

The cake, which debuted in August, was jointly developed by Euglena Co., a venture firm at the University of Tokyo that specializes in the organism, and Soke Kutsuwado, a confectioner based in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. One 2.5-cm-thick slice of the rectangular cake contains roughly 220 million euglena, they said.

The company claims it became the first in the world in December 2005 to succeed at mass cultivating the organism, which only grows to a length of 0.1 mm, and has developed supplements, cookies, ice creams and cosmetics containing it.

It developed the sponge cake after Proposer Co., a Takamatsu firm that helped develop the euglena supplement, came up with the idea of making sweets containing euglena so more people try the nutrient-rich organism, relaying the idea to a local confectioner.

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