Legislation

Centralised novel food authorisation moves closer

20-Dec-2013 - By Nicholas Robinson+
EU Member States could be stripped of their main risk assessment role in relation to novel foods
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Centralising novel food regulation at EU level should allow safe and innovative food to reach the European market faster, the European Commission (EC) has said.

Draft proposals on novel food authorisation were accepted by the EC yesterday (December 18) and would centralise regulation at EU level. 

The EC said changes would maintain a high level of consumer protection, while getting innovative products to market faster. 

The EU announced it was reviewing the regulation of novel food authorisation last month. The move could see the 28 Member States stripped of their main risk assessment role. 

EFSA risk assessment

A spokeswoman from the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would be responsible for carrying out the risk assessment on behalf of the EU.

“If this proposal is adopted, it will replace the current system where evaluations are carried out at the level of individual Member States and EFSA is only involved if there is no consensus,” the spokeswoman said.

The FSA said it was “too early” to say what role national authorisation bodies, such as the UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), would play in a centralised system.

“But the role of ACNFP will certainly need to be reviewed once the future EU procedures have been decided,” it added.

Efficient system 

Tonio Borg, the Commissioner in charge of the changes, said they would create a more “efficient” system. “It will offer EU consumers the benefit of a broad choice of foodstuffs and provides a favourable environment for Europe’s food industry,” he added. 

Representative body for Europe’s food and drink manufacturers, FoodDrinkEurope, welcomed the news as “invaluable”

“Innovation is invaluable to ensuring that Europe’s food and drink industry will continue to provide consumers with safe, sustainable and affordable products,” it said. 

“A revised novel foods regulation can stimulate innovation in the food and drink industry, by simplifying and streamlining the current regulatory framework and facilitating market access for novel foods.” 

Chia seeds 

Meanwhile, the ACNFP published a positive draft opinion for the approval of a new form of chia seed earlier this month. 

UK-based Nutrisure applied to the ACNFP under the simplified approval procedure, as it believed its seeds were equivalent to those approved for The Chia Company early this year. 

“The Committee concluded that Nutrisure has demonstrated the equivalence of their chia seed with the existing chia seed according to the criteria set out in Article 3(4) of the Novel Foods Regulation (EC) 258/97,” the ACNFP said. 

The draft opinion noted minor differences in the nutritional content of Nutrisure’s seeds, but put that down to “growing conditions”. 

Following the draft opinion, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked for views on Nutrisure’s application, which will close on December 24. 

2013 applications 

This year 12 applications for novel food approval were submitted to the ACNFP, according to its website, which indicated that only one had been approved and the others were still under evaluation.

Novel foods made headlines within the past few weeks after information at an ACNFP-organised workshop revealed there could be many unauthorised products on the market, posing a possible health risk. 

The information brought into question the effectiveness of the approvals process.

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