The European Commission published its revised proposal for a revised novel foods regulation in July 2008, which has since ricocheted between the Parliament and Council in first and second readings.
The intention is to adjust the original regulation, which dates from 1997, is to to simplify and centralise the novel foods authorisation process and foster industry innovation.
Moreover several new technologies, such as nanotechnology and cloning, have developed over the last 14 years, and decisions need to be taken on where they sit in relation to novel foods.
“Important amendments have been published by the European Parliament in Second Reading, some of which are reflected in the Council Common Position,” said the industry body in its new publication CIAA Priorities for the Hungarian Presidency of the EU (available here)
However amongst the issues it says still need to be addressed are the inclusion of a simplified notification procedure with a history of safe use outside the EU or which have already been approved for other food uses in the EU.
This would be beneficial for companies with limited resources such as SMEs. In 2007 economist Graham Brookes warned that innovation - and, as a result, competitiveness - is being hampered by tough novel foods regulations.
Brookes said companies also have a reduced rate of return on their investment because of the amount of time they have to wait for novel foods approval. If it has to wait 30 months or more for approval before it can even launch, this return can be reduced by 30 per cent, or an average of €4m per product.
In addition, it is still unclear how pending applications submitted under the old system will be handled in the switch to the new. The CIAA has called for a clear procedure for these, in order to avoid unnecessary delays.
As for post-market monitoring of novel foods, the confederation says this should be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than a mandatory basis as part of the authorisation procedure.
“The CIAA is confident that the Hungarian Presidency will reach a conclusion and finalise the much-awaited proposal,” it said.
Cloning – in or out?
A big stickling point between the Parliament and the Council has been whether or not produce from cloned animals and their offspring should be included under novel foods regulation.
The Parliament supporting the establishment of a new law for food from cloned animals, covering ethical as well as safety issues. Meanwhile the Council has supported inclusion of cloned animals under the existing novel foods regulation, subject to future review.
At a meeting of the European Commission, Council and Parliament to try to resolve the differing views in October the European Commission has proposed a temporary ban on animal cloning for food production in the European Union, at a meeting, and a suspension on the use of cloned farm animals and the marketing of food from clones, and establish a tracing system for imported genetic material, such as semen and cloned embryos.
This move has been resisted by the UK, however, with ministers saying in a report to the Food Standards Agency last month all regulation must be “proportionate and enforceable”, and they did not believe there is currently enough scientific evidence to warrant outlawing food from cloned animals. The UK position comes after the Commission recently called for a five-year ban on animal cloning for food production.