New and emerging novel foods in the UK

CHAP sector lead Dr Réka Haraszi attended a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum policy conference on 27th April 2021.

The event, titled ‘New and emerging novel foods – the UK regulatory system, market development, safety, and innovation in the food sector’ focused on regulation of new and emerging novel foods in the UK and how novel foods contribute to food system challenges.

Current food systems are being encouraged to go through significant transitions to achieve sustainability goals, support a nutritious and healthy diet, serve consumer needs and support the increasing protein demand. ‘There is a fundamental mismatch between what we grow and what we should grow and eat’ said Katrina Hayter, challenge director at UKRI.

All speakers agreed on the need for novel foods to contribute to food security, public health and environmental targets. The UK’s novel food market has been growing since leaving the EU, due to new future-facing trade deals and increasing opportunities for export. In light of the UK National Food Strategy, novel food development has to address the environmental, climate and nutritional challenges in agriculture and food technology platforms as well. According to Paul Tossell and Sukh Singh from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) who explained the novel food submission process, 75% of the novel foods being submitted for authorisation are related to CBD (cannabidiol) followed by plant-based foods and insect-based foods.

Denis Murphy, Professor of Biotechnology, University of South Wales talked about the future of GM and gene editing in the UK as a method of novel food development. The UK and EU regulations currently categorise gene editing under the same umbrella as GM, however other countries (China, Japan, USA) have already classified gene editing in the same category as conventional breeding. There is still not enough evidence available to prove what is the right thing to do, for example there is a clear contrast between the wide range of available GM food vs a single GE product on the market (in the US a low trans fatty acid soybean oil). Nevertheless, gene editing is not the only intervention that may cause concerns or not the only solution to global food security.

Annie-Laure Robin from Leatherhead Food Research (Science Group) presented considerations around novel food regulations including its definition: ‘…novel foods are ingredients that have not been consumed in the European Union before 1997…’ There are 10 different categories when a product, which is either produced a novel way or contains novel ingredients, is defined as novel food. The good news for the agriculture sector is that using a new agricultural technology to produce a plant, will not mean the produce is a novel food.

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