A fresh proposal for novel foods regulation is expected next year after the previous version of the proposal failed in March of this year due to disagreements on the regulation of animal cloning, according to Chris Jones senior scientific officer at the UK Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Novel Food Unit.
“Really all we know is that we are expecting something in 2012, a new proposal to replace 258/97 [the current legislation] … what shape that will be with regards to the big issue of animal cloning remains to be seen,” said Jones at an open workshop on novel foods put together by the FSA Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).
An impasse between the EU council and the Parliament over food from cloned animals and their offspring led to the spectacular failure of conciliation talks on the revised legislation on novel foods in March this year, meaning that three years of discussions over ways to make the novel foods procedure simpler and faster had to be discarded.
“The key issues were really to do with the use of animal cloning, and how to regulate that,” said Jones, who added that two separate pieces of legislation; one dealing with animal cloning, and the other with novel foods was “a possibility.”
However, the FSA expert warned that at the current time “we really don’t know, and are still waiting to hear.”
Jones did however outline some of the likely differences between the proposed new legislation and the current 1997 novel foods legislation.
“Putting the cloned meat issues aside for one moment, I think it’s important to be reminded about what the original rationale for the original proposal for new legislation in 2008 was,” he said.
The FSA expert explained that the new proposal should see a more centralised authorisation procedure, with Jones noting that as things currently stand, “novel foods is the only approval procedure that requires evaluation by individual member states.”
As a result, the legislation is expected to outline a system where there is a single evaluation carried out centrally by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
In addition to a centralised application and approcal process, the new proposal is expected to update the application framework for foods and that have been used traditionally outside of Europe.
“One of the main problems we get with food regulation, and one of the main reasons what we need new regulation is this issue of traditional foods from outside of Europe,” explained Jones.
He said that currently a fruit or ingredient that may have been eaten traditionally in other parts of the world is expected to go through the same evaluation as a new chemical entity.
“The [new] proposals will include measures that will make it easier for traditional foods from outside the EU to make use of that history of use,” he confirmed.
Jones also said that a definition for engineered nano-materials “could well appear in the new proposal.”
One of the main differences between the expected new proposal and existing regulations will be the introduction of generic authorisations for foods, said Jones.
He said that the new system will mean that novel food approval will be given directly to a food or ingredient, rather than a named company that brings the application. This new process will also do away with the current need for a system of faster applications for substantially equivalent applications, he added.
Jones explained that the new legislation would mean individual companies would now have to seek protection of their ingredients through intellectual property (IP) laws rather than a novel food approval.