UK: Agency seeks evidence of consumption of goji berries

The Food Standards Agency has written today to retailers, health food companies and other stakeholders asking for evidence of people eating goji berries within the European Union before May 1997.

This follows enquiries from a number of food businesses on whether goji berries can be sold legally in the European Union, or whether they are considered to be a ‘novel’ food, which means they would need to be authorised before they can be sold.

Goji berries, also known as Chinese wolfberries, are small red fruits from the plant Lycium barbarum, which is a vine that grows in China, Tibet and other parts of Asia.

In the European Union, a food is judged to be novel if it was not eaten in a significant quantity in Europe before May 1997. According to the EU Novel Foods Regulation (EC) 258/97, new foods must be shown to meet three criteria before they can be authorised for sale: they must not be unsafe, their labelling must not be misleading and their nutritional quality must not be inferior to other similar foods that they could replace. This regulation provides important safeguards for consumers by checking whether new foods are suitable for the whole population, including people with food allergies.

The Food Standards Agency has already checked with other European Member States to find out whether goji berries have been eaten regularly in any European country before May 1997. No significant history of consumption for berries in Europe before May 1997 has so far been found. But the Agency would like to give stakeholders the opportunity to provide evidence on whether a significant history of consumption exists for goji berries in the EU.

If no new evidence comes to light before 23 March, the Agency will inform food businesses and enforcement bodies that, under the European legislation, goji berries will be considered novel and cannot be sold legally until they have been formally authorised. If any company then wishes to sell goji berries in the EU, it should put forward an application, which the Agency or its counterparts in other Member States will look at.

There are no immediate safety concerns over goji berries and local authorities will take this into account when deciding on appropriate enforcement action.

Please send any relevant information to: [email protected].

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