Novel food is defined to be a type of food that wasn’t consumed by humans in large quantities before 15 May 1997 in the EU. This was when the first regulations about novel food came into place in this region of the world. Novel food can encompass a wide variety of food types, including new developments, innovative food, and food that’s created using brand new technologies or processes. However, it may also include food that wasn’t traditionally eaten in this part of the world but may be considered an everyday food outside of the EU. Keep reading as we discuss everything you need to know about what is novel food and its regulation process.
Novel Food Ingredients
Novel ingredients are generally derived from either plant or animal sources. However, scientists are continuing to find new food sources, such as algae and designer foods. The main advantage of novel food ingredients is that you can add or remove ingredients to avoid allergens, allowing this food to appeal to a wider market. Examples of popular novel ingredients that have been used in novel food over the years include grains, chia seeds, and insects. They can be used to create more sustainable food options or offer higher nutritional value. For example, phytostanols and phytosterols have been used in commercial products and are believed to help lower cholesterol levels. Even some exotic fruits and vegetables can be considered novel food ingredients in Europe, as they haven’t been consumed in large quantities in the past.
Novel Food Products
The novel food example products that we share with you may surprise you, as many of these products are now popular with consumers and readily available in grocery stores and health food stores. For example, chia seeds are a great example of a product on the new food list and are now used readily in breakfasts, smoothies, and desserts by individuals looking to enjoy its beneficial properties. On top of that, new sources of vitamin K and extracts from other existing products, such as krill oil, meet the novel food definition. However, designer food or food that is created with different production processes can be also considered novel food in the EU. UV-treated food is a popular type of novel food, which could include milk, mushrooms, bread, or yeast.
Another sub-category within novel food approval is designer food. This is a type of novel food that has never been sold anywhere in the world, and instead, it has been designed and manufactured using bioengineering methods. It’s more commonly known as genetically modified food and is usually enhanced with different additives in order to potentially offer health benefits to individuals who consume them. You may have seen designer milk, probiotics, designer proteins, and designer grains in your local store, and these all fall under the novel food authorization that we will discuss shortly. However, one thing to be aware of if buying or consuming these products is that they sometimes come with unproven health claims, and so they may not offer any more health benefits than your typical milk, protein, or grain products.
One of the most exciting additions to the novel foods list in Europe in the past few years has been the addition of the food status of CBD extracts. CBD extracts will still need to undergo the authorization process of other products, and this includes both isolates and extracts. CBD products are gaining a lot of worldwide attention, and since its addition to the novel food list in January 2019, consumers are able to ensure they find a safe and reliable product to use.
Novel Food Applications
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look into the novel food meaning, it’s important to discover the applications and how we can expect to see them used more in the future. With more developments within technology and the food industry in general, we can expect to see companies try to find new food options for our growing population. Novel food applications must be completed for each and every product that’s going to be sold on the market if it falls under the definition of novel foods in the EU. Thanks to the electronic portal that’s now available for applications, the process is quicker and easier than ever before.
Novel Food Regulation
For novel food products to be consumed by humans and sold on the market, they need to be authorized by the Novel Food legislation, under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 in the EU. For companies to apply for their product to be accepted under this regulation, they must complete the documentation required to highlight the science and safety of the novel food products they are trying to sell. This regulation process is key to ensure consumers are enjoying a safe experience while trying these new foods and that no dangers are presented by them being sold with traditional food products.
Novel food products must not mislead the customer to receive this regulation, as some novel food products claim that the product can offer health benefits that aren’t true. On top of that, novel foods must not create a nutritional disadvantage for the consumer if they use them to replace traditional and nutritionally rich ingredients.
While the original novel food regulation in the EU covered genetically modified foods and ingredients, you’ll find that these were deleted later on. From 2003 onwards, more controlled regulations were put into place surrounding genetically modified foods, and so they must not be confused with those items covered under the novel food regulation. When approving novel foods, Regulation 258/97 requires these foods to undergo a risk assessment before they can either be sold or used. This initial assessment takes place with a Member State but will be followed up by the European Food Safety Authority if it’s rejected by another Member State. Since the introduction of the novel food regulation, many foods have been approved in this way.
One of the biggest concerns about the current novel food regulations is that they often forbid novel foods which are widely accepted elsewhere in the world. Due to the date restriction of 1997 that was placed on the initial regulation, the EU accepted this would need to be amended, which is why the regulation has now been updated.
Approved novel foods can be viewed in an official EU List, which is published as the Regulation 2017/2470. The novel food catalogue offers us greater insight into this area of study and potential food solutions for our growing population. While some of these food items are easy to find now, you’ll find that others are still quite rare within our stores or online marketplaces. Consumers can rest assured that any item which does appear on this list has been subject to strict regulations and restrictions. The safety of consumers is the number one priority when considering novel foods, and the EU regulation is often reviewed and updated as needed to keep this in mind.
Application for food approval
For consumers who want to have their novel foods approved in the EU, there are two different ways to go through this process. Either they can complete a full application or a simplified application. The simplified option is only available if the EU member national competent authority believes the novel food is similar to an existing food product or ingredient that’s currently being sold to and consumed by people. An example of this EU member authority would be the Food Standards Agency in the UK, which would allow companies to take this simplified route and speed up the approval process. As you can see, it’s not a quick or simple process to get the novel food application approved, which protects the health and safety of consumers and is necessary to ensure novel foods don’t pose any risks to consumers.
Novel food regulations ensure that this food is a safe solution for consumers while also expanding the offerings available within the food market. Over the upcoming decades, we can only expect to see the number of new food applications continue to increase, especially within the designer food section. As a heavily regulated industry, it’s an exciting way for humans to safely enjoy new food options that may also offer a solution to help with our growing population and the struggles that we are likely to face to feed everyone.
When a product has over 25 years of continuous use by a significant number of a population outside of the EU or UK, you’ll find that this food is able to use the simplified application process. The data requirements are much lower in this application process due to the wider usage of this product worldwide.