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EU Novel Foods amendment proposal accepted

By Shane Starling , 30-Apr-2009
Last updated on 29-Jul-2009 at 12:48 GMT

European Union novel foods applications will be processed more quickly and the definition of what constitutes a novel food broadened, if a proposal for a new novel foods regulation is accepted by the European Parliament (EP).

The controversial regulation made it through an EP first reading after which, on March 25, the report by rapporteur Kartika Liotard was accepted by majority vote, according to Brussels-based consultancy, European Advisory Services (EAS).

EAS adviser, Aleksandra Wesolowska said progress of the proposed rule would be affected by upcoming EP elections in June. “As yet it is not clear if rapporteur Kartika Liotard will be back in the EP after the elections,” she said.

“If so, she may be the right person to carry the Novel Foods dossier forward. At this point it is not possible to predict the outcome. The new European Parliament could choose to continue the process from the second reading, or it could restart the whole legislative process with another first reading on the basis of the European Commission’s proposal.”

Europe's Novel Foods regulation (EC No 258/97) requires any food or ingredient not commonly consumed in the EU prior to May 1997 to undergo safety assessment before it can be sold across the EU's 27-member bloc.

It is a notoriously long-winded and unpopular process that has been much criticised by industry for stalling innovation, and the EC has hinted for some time that it will be simplified or streamlined or both.

Novel Foods reform detail

The EP agreed on a simplified authorisation or notification procedure for foods and ingredients from those third countries with a safe history of use which could cut processing times from three years or more to around one year.

Animal cloning had been left out of the proposed rule change after lengthy debate, said Wesolowska, with the EP recommending the Commission put forward a new proposal on cloned animals and their offspring”.

The March 25 EP Plenary session agreed a number of issues including bringing novel additives, enzymes and flavours into the rule if not produced before 15 May 1997 and if they significantly altered the composition or structure of foods. Engineered nanomaterials would have to be labelled to differentiate them from those that occur naturally.

“It was agreed that names of all of the nanoingredients in a product should be followed by the word ‘nano’ in brackets,” she said. “However, there was no agreement on special labelling conditions for foods produced with aid of nanotechnology.”

The definition of ‘traditional food from a third country’ was altered so that a natural non-engineered novel food with at least a 25-year history of food use in a third country, would also fall under a proposed rule, Wesolowska said.

But only if the food continues to be part of the normal diet within a large section of the country’s population. “‘History of safe food use’ should equate to 30 years of customary use in a large part of the population, and supported with compositional data,” she said. Post-market monitoring of novel foods was also agreed upon.

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