Foods are usually allowed to be sold on the European market without prior approval. However, novel foods and food ingredients are an exception. These products must be subjected to a standardised safety assessment before the product is placed on the EU market. Novel foods must not jeopardise consumer health and may not mislead consumers. Additionally, they must not differ from the conventional foods and food ingredients they are meant to replace in a way that eating them could cause nutritional deficiencies.
Novel foods are foods and food ingredients that have not been used for human consumption to a noteworthy extent before 15th May, 1997. Novel foods are foods and food ingredients that are separated into four categories:
- Foods with new or intently modified primary molecular structure (e.g. synthetic, calorie-free fat substitutes).
- Foods consisting of microorganisms, fungi or algae or which have been isolated from these organisms, such as algae oil.
- Foods containing plants and plant parts unknown and considered exotic in Europe (e.g. Noni juice) or food ingredients isolated from animals.
- Foods that have not been produced using non-conventional methods that cause a structural or compositional modification (e.g. high-pressure pasteurised fruit products).
Food additives, food aromas, genetically modified foods and extraction solvents used in producing foods are not considered novel foods, as they are subject to other regulations.
Examples of Novel Foods and Food Ingredients
Novel foods approved in the EU include, for example, cholesterol reducing phytosterols in spreadable fats, Noni juice and trehalose as sweeteners. Applications for permits for stevia rebaudiana, nangai nuts and iodine-enriched eggs were rejected.