Getting the green light for placing novel foods on the EU market will become faster and cheaper while the high level of protection of human health will be preserved. That's the main purpose of a draft regulation that the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee approved on 11 November 2015. The draft regulation was voted by the Parliament on 28 October 2015. Novel foods are foods not consumed in the EU to a significant degree before May 1997. They include for instance foods to which a new production process is applied.
"The compromise approved today is a needed step towards faster innovation in the novel foods market while guaranteeing high levels of consumer protection for the European citizens", said Lydia Mutsch, member of the Luxembourg government and President of the Council.
Cutting red tape
Under the new rules the authorisation procedure for a novel food is expected to take on average around 18 months compared to three years under the current rules. The draft regulation also helps to reduce administrative burdens by switching to an EU-level procedure and providing for generic authorisations. This means that once authorised and added to the EU list a novel food may be placed on the market by any food business operator. This avoids the re-submission of new applications by other companies for the same novel food and should benefit in particular SMEs. Under the current rules, novel foods are authorised at national level and valid only for the applicant.
Easier access for traditional foods
The new rules will also facilitate the access to the EU market for traditional foods from third countries having a history of safe food use. For these foods an applicant must demonstrate that they have been safely consumed by a significant part of a third country's population for at least 25 years.
The scope of the novel food rules explicitly covers food containing engineered nanomaterials. The Commission is mandated to adapt the definition of engineered nanomaterials to technical progress or the definitions agreed at international level.
The new regulation provides also clarity that insects are covered and are hence subject to an authorisation procedure.
Food from animal clones will remain subject to the novel food rules. Commission proposals establishing specific rules on cloning are currently discussed in the Council and the European Parliament.
The Council is expected to formally adopt the new regulation on 16 November before it is published in the Official Journal of the EU. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication and will be applicable two years later.
The novel foods authorised under the current rules in the EU include for instance "rapeseed oil high in unsaponifiable matter", "rye bread with added phytosterols/phytostanols", "milk type products and yoghurt type products with added phytosterol esters", "coagulated potato proteins and hydrolysates thereof" and "phospholipids from egg yolk", "chias seeds" and "baobab extracts".