Novel foods

How novel foods are assessed

Novel foods, ingredients and processes covered by the Novel Foods Regulation must have a pre-market safety assessment before a decision is made to authorise them for use throughout the EU.

In the UK, these novel food assessments are normally carried out by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) - an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency.

Food product safety assessments cover:

  • composition
  • nutritional value
  • metabolism
  • intended use
  • presence of undesirable substances such as contaminants
  • production process - if the final composition of a food changes in production this can make it a novel food
  • toxicological assessment
  • allergenicity assessment

Submitting an application for authorisation of a novel food or process

The application procedure goes through the following stages:

  1. an application is made to a single EU member state, which has 90 days to produce an opinion
  2. this is circulated to all EU member states, which have another 60 days to comment or object
  3. if there are no objections, the product is authorised or rejected in line with the initial opinion
  4. if there are objections, member states vote on whether or not to authorise the product

The European Food Safety Authority may be asked for its opinion on any outstanding safety questions.

What to include in the application

The European Commission recommends what to include in the scientific information and safety assessment report that's submitted as part of the application.

Simplified application procedure

There's a simplified application procedure for a novel food or ingredient that's 'substantially equivalent' to a product already on sale in the EU. The application must show how the proposed product is similar to the existing one.