The highly unpopular European Union Novel Foods regulation continues to draw criticism, even as a formal catalogue of approved substances is on the verge of publication by the European Commission.
The catalogue aims to quantify those novel foods and ingredients that have been approved by the EC and make the process more transparent, but the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA) says the process continues to ignore valid information and thwart innovation.
For instance, manufacturers should be able to submit data to the European Commission highlighting the safety of substances, ERNA said. It said the list, which has informally circulated within the EU for five years, could be damaging to the market because it presented a list of approved foods and ingredients but does not make explicit the "criteria and data used to arrive at conclusions".
To date stakeholders have not been allowed consultation on the document and according to ERNA, manufacturers possess data on a number of substances that contradicts the information included in the list.
"We are not clear on how this catalogue has been established, how the information has been validated and what criteria have been used to include or exclude substances in this list," said Patrick Coppens, ERNA Secretary General. "The substances listed are not specified for their chemical composition or origin or part of plant, and many descriptions offer no clarity on how the decision was reached. It is bound to raise many more questions and problems for business than create clarity and improve understanding."
Foods and ingredients that cannot demonstrate a strong history of use and were not legally on sale before May 1997, have to go through the Novel Foods process — which is notoriously long-winded and which many see as stifling product innovation within the EU.
"Previously, Member States had decided that ingredients with a demonstrated use in food supplements but not in regular foodstuffs would need to undergo novel food approval when used in the latter," ERNA stated. "However the catalogue now confirms and applies this principle to many ingredients where in the past Member States' control authorities have not acted."
Coppens added: "Some plants in the catalogue have known and acknowledged use in food and food supplements in Member States. It is imperative that the validity of this list is double-checked with data from manufacturers."
Perhaps recognising this, the EC is drafting a new version of the regulation that will offer greater recognition of substances that have been proven safe in other parts of the world and more accurately classify those substances used in foods as opposed to supplements.