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Page last update: 25/12/2008

New regulations proposed for novel foods

Throughout history human beings have attempted to broaden their diet by seeking new things to eat. Can you imagine what European cuisine was like before the arrival of the humble potato? People have also employed different methods to preserve their food or make it more palatable. These innovations, over time, have revolutionised the way people eat. This process continues as new scientific research and technologies will now enable us to enjoy a range and choice of foods that our ancestors would have marvelled at.

Innovative foods

The European Commission has adopted a proposal revising the Novel Foods Regulation so that new and innovative foods have better access to the EU market, while consumer protection is guaranteed. 'Novel foods' include those which are produced using new techniques and technologies, and those that have no history of consumption within the EU, but have been consumed elsewhere.

'This proposal aims to create a more efficient and practical system for regulating novel foods, which will offer EU consumers the benefit of the most up-to-date choice of foodstuffs possible and provide a favourable environment for the food industry in Europe,' said EU Commissioner for Health, Markos Kyprianou.

One of the indicators of a novel food, according to the proposal, is the use of emerging technologies in breeding and food production processes. These may have an impact on food, and thus food safety.

'Novel food should include foods derived from plants and animals, produced by non-traditional breeding techniques, and foods modified by new production processes, such as nanotechnology and nanoscience, which might have an impact on food,' states the paper. 'Food derived from new plant varieties, or animal breeds produced by traditional breeding techniques, should not be considered as novel foods,' it adds.

Simpler procedures

The proposal also emphasises the importance of simplifying procedures for assessing and authorising new foods. One centralised procedure will be introduced, and national administrative procedures, which lead to a duplication of work, will be abolished. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will assess a product once the European Commission receives an application for authorisation.

All novel foods and their use as ingredients shall be evaluated according to whether or not they present a danger to consumers or mislead them. If the new food replaces another, it should not lead to a nutritional disadvantage for the consumer.

The proposal follows a consultation with stakeholders, including the food industry, consumers, third countries, national and EU authorities and international organisations.

For further information:
Novel Foods - Review of Regulation (EC) 258/97

Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top