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European goji berry status under scrutiny

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has asked retailers, health food companies and other stakeholders for evidence of goji berry consumption within the European Union before May 1997, in an effort to determine whether or not it requires Novel Foods authorisation to be sold in the European Union's 27 Member States.

The action follows enquiries from a number of food companies interested in marketing the Asian berries, also known as Chinese wolfberries. European food law requires those foods that cannot prove they were eaten in significant quantities before May, 1997, to gain Novel Foods authorisation — a much-criticised process that can take many years for a verdict to be delivered.

The FSA has consulted other European Member States to determine whether goji berries have been eaten regularly in any European country before 1997. So far, no pattern of consumption has been determined.

The FSA has set a March 23 deadline, and will inform food businesses and enforcement bodies that, under the European legislation, goji berries will require Novel Foods authorisation unless history-of-use can be established.

It noted there were no immediate safety concerns over goji berries, and local authorities would take this into account when deciding on appropriate enforcement action.

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