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Food for thought: what are 'novel foods' and how safe are they?

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By Euronews
Food for thought: what are 'novel foods' and how safe are they?

The safety of new types of food products is a concern for Euronews viewer Sylvie in Lyon, France who asks: “as the European Union is reviewing its policy on ‘novel foods’, could you tell me what these are? Currently, how are they regulated in Europe?”

The answer is from Jean Pottier, novel foods regulatory expert at “Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety”: and Environment: “What we call “novel foods” are foods that have not been consumed to a significant degree in the European Union prior to 1997.

“This includes, for instance, food ingredients with modified molecular structures and plants or animals such as insects coming from other continents outside Europe. As these products were not eaten in Europe before that date, their safety could not have been established on the basis of experience of consumption over time.

“Therefore, to be marketed in Europe, such food must be granted a specific authorisation. Such an authorisation comes after a scientific assessment to ensure they do not pose health risks. Since the entry into force of this EU regulation
, about one hundred authorisations have been granted.

“That’s the case, for example, of the chia seed, which is from a South American plant rich in Omega 3. There are also new sugar molecules, or fat spreads with phytosterols aimed at reducing cholesterol.

“However, novel foods are not only developed or imported in Europe for nutritional reasons, but also for technological reasons. For example, there is a new gum made for chewing gum that is less sticky than others, making it easier to clean up when thrown away in the street. Novel foods are regulated at a European level, so their authorisations are valid throughout the European Union.”

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