Novel foods mean foods which have not been used for human consumption to a significant degree within the EU before the date of application of the first Novel Foods Regulation, that is, 15 May 1997. The new Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) 2015/2283 that replaces the earlier Regulation became applicable on 1 January 2018. The concept of novel food should still be founded on a safe history of food use. The definition of novel foods is supplemented by the division of foods into categories. Besides the earlier groups such as food from plants, animals, microorganisms, algae or fungi, or food resulting from novel production processes, new categories to be taken into account include engineered nanomaterials, food from cell culture or tissue culture, and food from material of mineral origin. In the new Regulation whole animals as food are also unambiguously covered by the Regulation, which clarifies the situation in terms of insects.
The most significant issue in the reform is the concentration of risk assessments and decision-making. The applications are submitted to the European Commission, which is also responsible for making the decisions. In future the European Food Safety Authority EFSA is responsible for prior examination. The authorisations will be harmonised and included in the Union list to be published on the European Commission website and updated as new applications are approved. The list defines the conditions for use and the specification of the novel food. For foods from a third country that have a history of safe use of more than 25 years there is a simplified notification procedure. All food authorisations are valid in the whole EU. The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira is the contact point of Finland in matters concerning novel foods.
When shifting to the new system, applications for authorisations submitted prior to 2018 where the decision has not yet been made will be processed under the new Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. For products covered by the new Regulation now lawfully based on the market the applications for authorisation must be submitted by 2019. These include insect products placed on the market in Finland.
More information on novel foods is available on the website of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira. The Union list of authorised novel foods is accessible on the European Commission website. The website also gives guidance on the application procedure and the link to the electronic application system.
Genetically modified food
Provisions on genetically modified food and feed are laid down in Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EC) 1829/2003. Such foods are foods that contain, consist of or are produced from genetically modified organisms (GMO).
There are requirements concerning package labelling for genetically modified food. The labelling is to be found in the list of ingredients attached to the ingredient concerned. Labelling is not required if the material is present in minute traces or the presence is accidental. The limit set for this is 0.9% of the ingredient concerned.
Decisions on the marketing of genetically modified food and feed are made jointly for the whole EU. The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira is the designated authority of Finland for authorisation matters relating to GM food and feed.
In April 2015 the Commission gave a proposal on amending Regulation (EC) 1823/2009) as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified products authorised in the EU on their territory. The proposal does not provide for the possibility to restrict the trade in products derived from animals fed with genetically modified feed such as meat, fish, dairy products or eggs on the internal market. The consideration of the matter by the EU institutions is still under way.
More information on genetically modified food is available on the website of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira. The European Commission website provides a lot of information on gene technology as well as access to the GMO register of genetically modified food and feed authorised for placing on the market. Information on gene technology and genetically modified food is also available on the website of the European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the GMOPlatform website of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO.
Ms. Sanna Viljakainen, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 295 16 2037, sanna.viljakainen(at)mmm.fi