Following public consultation, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) decided that UK firm Hawaiian Noni's product meets the criteria for equivalence.
An application for noni juice to be marketed was originally approved in 2003. This approval applied only to the applicant company.
However, regulation (EC) 258/97 makes provision for novel foods or ingredients that are substantially equivalent to an existing product to be placed on the market once the applicant has informed the European Commission.
The basis of this request was that Agrinom, the supplier of Hawaiian Noni Juice LLC, is the sole supplier of BPI Austria whose product was authorised in 2004. In all cases to date, the Commission has required that the applicant first obtain an opinion on substantial equivalence from a Member State, which is what Hawaiian Noni has now received from the FSA.
Noni juice comes from the fruit commonly known as 'noni'. But it is also known as 'Indian Mulberry' and 'nonu'. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and to have been distributed subsequently by ancient voyagers or other means into the Pacific islands, including Tahiti and Hawaii.
Today, it is one of a number of antioxidant fruits, including pomegranate, guarana, mangosteen, goji berries and blueberries, which are increasingly seen by food and beverage makers as up and coming ingredients.
Leatherhead Foods predicts that sales of such heart health foods will rise nearly 60 per cent over the 2004-2009 period to reach nearly $5.7 billion by 2009. Although it said in its recent "Heart Benefit Foods" report that, until now, juice drinks have tended to have a general health positioning due to their antioxidant content, there are signs that this may be about to change.
The expert committee that advises the agency on novel foods, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), is a non-statutory, independent body of scientific experts that carries out safety assessments of any novel food or process submitted for approval under the EC novel food regulation.
It is supported in its work by a secretariat provided by the FSA. The secretariat has scientific expertise that enables them to provide Members with comprehensive background information and briefing papers that inform the decision-making processes of the Committee.