UK consultation on novel food streamlining plans

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

© Zerbor / Getty Images
© Zerbor / Getty Images

Related tags Novel foods Cbd Brexit

UK food authorities have launched a consultation to collect views on policy change proposals that aim to streamline the authorization process for regulated products such as novel foods.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) Boards have agreed that significant change is needed to the current authorization process—inherited from the European Union (EU) and now open to change as a result of Brexit—in order to keep up with the pace of innovation in the food industry.

The FSA revealed potential plans​ to improve the current system back in 2023 to ensure that consumers have quicker access to a wider choice of safe, innovative products.

The first of the two reforms under consultation is the removal of the requirement for some products already authorized as safe to go through a reauthorization process at fixed intervals of every 10 years, regardless of whether evidence on safety changes.  

Around 22% of the current case load consists of renewal applications, and this is expected to rise to over 50% by 2027.  

Without reform, these cases will put considerable strain on the service, focusing resources on products with many years of safe use where, in the majority of cases, there is no change in risk. All renewal applications to date have been approved.  

The FSA/FSS already has powers to monitor new evidence and take required action at any time. This is done through risk analysis process, following internationally agreed standards. The FSA closely follows the work of other trusted international regulators and uses surveillance to monitor food incidents globally. 

The second reform is the removal of the requirement to lay legislation to authorize regulated products. This would allow authorizations, following approval by ministers, to come into effect following publication by the FSA/FSS, likely in the form of an official register, rather than setting them out in full in legislation.  

The need to lay legislation added anywhere from a three- to six-month delay between an application's formal approval and its authorization. The process also requires considerable resources within the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland and across the parliaments and assemblies of England, Wales and Scotland.

“This is a huge opportunity for the FSA to drive benefits for consumers by enabling new and innovative products that we assess as being safe to come to market more quickly,” said Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the FSA. “It will set a new way of doing things that will be viewed with real interest by regulators around the world.

“At the June Board meeting, we expect to see detailed proposals for the next steps, including how the FSA might further use other regulators’ opinions when assessing risks and an outline of the potential longer-term structure of the Regulated Products Service.  This is an exciting time for the FSA and a real opportunity for us to make a difference.”

These proposals are a first step towards greater reform and modernization of the Regulated Products Service, with further plans set to be presented to the FSA and FSS Boards in June 2024.

Interest parties are advised to respond to the consultation using the authorities' online form​.

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