Streamlined European novel foods process to boost innovation and productivity

The European Commission (EC) has indicated it will simplify the laborious and unpopular Novel Foods process that many within industry see as stifling trade within and into the European Union.

It has posted a consultation document on its website to gauge the impact its suggested changes to the Novel Food Regulation will have on industry and consumers, who have until Aug. 1 to respond. "The EC is seeking feedback on how to create a more streamlined authorisation procedure (including the decision) which takes into account, for example, particular needs of traditional exotic food from Third World countries and which is adjusted to applications which cover several food uses," the EC said. "A revision of the Novel Food Regulation is deemed necessary in order to reflect the fact that genetically modified (GM) food no longer falls under its scope, to create a more favourable legislative environment for innovation in the food industry, and to better facilitate both internal and external trade in foodstuffs. The consumer would also benefit from a wider choice of safe novel foods."

The EC admitted the current authorisation procedure was too convoluted. "It is also in some cases difficult to predict for the applicants due to the lengthy decentralised system."

In a previous industry consultation, Unilever highlighted some of the issues industry has with the regulation. "Developing novel foods for approval through Novel Foods Regulation EC258/97 is expensive and time consuming," it said. "Unilever has invested six years and nearly €25 million in bringing plant sterol enriched yellow fat spreads to the market through this process. Revisions of the existing approval system should be guided by a business impact assessment, which takes into account the level of investment required to bring novel foods to market as well as the need to maintain high standards of food safety."

Novel foods are deemed to be those that were not consumed to any significant degree within the European Union before May 1997.

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