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Novel foods and how they are regulated

An EFSA video explaining what 'novel foods' are and how the EU regulates them to keep the consumer safe.
What is a novel food? Let’s start with the word novel. Novel does not only mean new. Novel also describes something that is unusual, unconventional, or innovative. And novel implies a timestamp. Something is new or novel when you first encounter it. Over the time, we get used to the novelty and we consider it as conventional and normal. In the European Union, we consider food as novel when it has not been consumed much before May 1997. So here we have our timestamp. Throughout history, we have added new types of food to our diets– maize, potatoes, tomatoes. They all originate from North and South America. Rice and noodles are now staples of our diet. Both came from Asia.
Mmm. Enjoy a cup of coffee? Well, coffee originates from East Africa and reached Europe via North Africa and Near East. The list of foods that started out as novel food and which we now consume regularly has become endless over the centuries. More recent arrivals in Europe are foods such as chia seeds and quinoa grain from South America or baobab fruit from Africa. And what about insects? Crickets, larva, or insect eggs are part of the normal diet elsewhere in the world where they are considered traditional foods. There is increasing interest in introducing insects to the European market.
But there are also other types of novel foods like substances which are added to change certain properties of food. Take, for instance, the substance to make chewing gum less sticky. It’s reduced adhesive properties could make it much easier to remove them from any surface. Novel foods also include foods produced with new methods that change their characteristics. Think of how people invented drying or smoking to preserve food. Sometimes new sources of known food components are discovered, which we consider novel foods. A recent example is krill, a new source of omega 3 fatty acids, which we consume already from other sources. Before we as consumers can enjoy any novel food, we want to be sure that it’s safe.
Therefore, all novel foods have to undergo a safety system. Also traditional foods from countries outside of the EU have to be assessed for their safety. Before they can be traded in the EU, we need to know that these foods have been consumed safely over at least 25 years. The world is full of diversity. And so novel foods will continue to come to our tables providing new choices and new sources of nutrients.

In the previous Step we looked at how the EU considers health claims made on food products. Another area where regulation is used to protect the consumer is in the area of novel foods. This video explains what the term ‘novel food’ means and how these products are regulated to keep consumers safe.

Novel foods can include new ingredients used in food products, as well as new methods and technologies for producing food. So, if a new food processing technology is developed, any foods produced using this method are considered novel and therefore need to be assessed to ensure their safety.

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How Food is Made. Understanding Food Processing Technologies

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