EU Agriculture Ministers and the European Parliament put an end on Monday (16 November) to an eight-year-long deadlock on novel foods, adopting a new regulation that is expected to help the innovation-driven products enter the EU market.
On 28 October, the European Parliament approved a revised text on the novel foods regulation, triggering a strong reaction from the European Greens, which said that European citizens’ concerns about cloning were being ignored.
The vote, however, was welcomed by the EU food industry.
“It is of crucial importance to Europe’s food and drink industry, given its potential to stimulate innovation and, therefore, respond to consumer demands by providing them with safe, sound, sustainable and affordable choices,” FoodDrinkEurope told EURACTIV.
The revised rules provide a single authorisation procedure for the EU, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) taking overall responsibility for assessing new food’s potential effects on human health.
The current average approval time for novel foods is 35 months, but the new, centralised, approach will significantly reduce this time to 18-24 months.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, welcomed the political agreement, saying that it will boost innovation in the EU market.
“This agreement brings us closer to a more effective regulatory environment that will allow businesses to bring innovative food to market, whilst ensuring the highest possible levels of food safety for European consumers,” he stressed, adding that European citizens will also be able to enjoy a broader choice of food.
“Europe’s agri-food industry – the second largest employment sector in Europe – will benefit from innovation and will contribute to the creation of more jobs and growth,” Andriukaitis emphasised.
Novel foods are defined in Europe as food that has not been consumed to a significant degree prior to 1997, the year when the first regulation on novel foods came into force.
The products can be newly developed, innovative food, or food produced using new technologies and production processes, as well as food traditionally eaten outside of the EU. It can also be food with an intentionally modified primary molecular structure, food from micro-organisms, fungi and algae, insects, plants, cellular or tissue cultures, and engineered nanomaterials.
In May , the European Parliament presented its “final offer” on the proposed regulation. MEPs wanted to safeguard the Parliament’s right to scrutinise the EU list of novel foods, which the European Commission will draw up at a later stage. They also wanted the text about cloning clarified.