By Giorgos Skampoulos, Associate LL.M
The increasing globalization, the growing ethnic diversity and the gradual search for new sources of nutrients are some of the key factors that have led to the increasing international appearance of new forms of food that were previously largely unknown to human consumption. According to the EU framework, any food that was not widely consumed before May 1997 is considered as a novel food. The category of novel food is therefore very broad and covers new foods, foods from new sources, new substances used in foods, as well as new ways and technologies for food production.
Due to the fact that the scientific evidence for several food categories is not yet sufficient, novel foods are subject to a centralized and European evaluation and authorization procedure that makes the overall process more efficient and results in the granting of a marketing authorization and the inclusion of a food in the EU list of novel foods. The European Commission, which is responsible for the authorisation of novel foods under the evaluation procedure and which is scientifically assisted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the authority that carries out the substantive evaluation of the food under consideration, plays a key role in this project, which is clearly aimed at protecting the health of the consumer public.
This procedure inevitably places an obligation on food business operators to verify whether the food they intend to place on the Union market can be classified as a novel food and whether it is included in the Union Catalogue of Novel Foods. Otherwise they are primarily responsible for initiating authorisation procedures for the product either individually or in cooperation with other operators.
Following the above, we conclude that novel foods, despite the fact that in principle they fall under the category of food,they approach in some respects the legislation on medical products, as they require an approval and licensing procedure so as not to compromise consumer safety.