What are novel foods?
'Novel foods' are foods that have not been widely consumed in the EU before 15 May 1997. Novel foods either do not have any 'history of consumption', or are produced using new processes which result in one or more of the following:
- changes to the food's composition
- changes to the food's nutritional value
- undesirable substances in the food
- changes to the way in which the food is metabolised
Using high pressure processing as an alternative to heat pasteurisation is an example of a novel food process. Novel foods can include different types of products - for example:
- oils and other extracts or concentrates including from existing foods
- new carbohydrates and protein sources
- seeds and berries
Reasons for development of novels foods
Food companies may want to introduce novel foods for different reasons, for example because:
- they can produce them more efficiently
- they provide health benefits for consumers
Are novel foods regulated?
Before a novel food can be legally marketed in the UK, it must have a pre-market safety assessment and authorisation. The assessment and authorisation ensure that the novel foods:
- are safe
- are not misleading for the consumer
- do not replace other foods in a way that would put consumers at a nutritional disadvantage
There are two possible routes for authorisation of novel foods:
- a simplified application for traditional foods from countries outside the UK or EU
- a full application for all other novel foods
Find out more about novel food authorisation.
Novel foods legislation
The current EU regulation on novel foods was introduced in 2018. The main features of the regulation:
- expanded the categories of novel foods
- introduced a simplified, centralised authorisation procedure
- simplified assessment for traditional foods from non-EU countries
- established a Union list of novel foods
- included data protection provisions for certain innovative novel foods
Find out more about the current EU regulation on novel foods.
Researching public opinion on novel foods
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) protects consumers' interests in relation to food matters, keeping up to date with public opinion about emerging food technologies. Their research shows that the public is still wary of these new food technologies. Genetically modified (GM) food and animal cloning remain the areas that people are most concerned about.