This event in January provided an opportunity to promote the benefits of farmed insects as a novel food/food ingredient and argue for a balanced approach to protecting the consumer. The event focused on the regulations relating to novel foods and how these might change in the light of Brexit.
While there was some speculation and expression of interest in a more flexible and less cautious approach, this has to be balanced with the continued need to protect consumers from risky products entering the market and the benefits of retaining the ability to sell into Europe.
I gave an impassioned presentation about insect protein and the tricky situation the sector finds itself in in the UK, given both the transition from former Novel Food Regulations to the new ones which now require insect material to be explicitly approved, the on-going situation where we are waiting to hear which insect products will be approved by the European Commission (and which of these will only apply to products developed with proprietary processes), and how the UK will diverge from the EU post Brexit in its rulings about Novel Foods.
Clearly there is scope for the UK to become a location that can allow more innovation on the basis of products that are intended for the UK market, and then once they are established and there is a good basis of evidence of their safety, the company could seek approval from the European Commission for approval to enter their market.
This presentation was reported in Food Navigator.com with a headline referring to the safety of insects as food.
A more comprehensive report of the meeting is available in the members section of the Woven website. A PDF copy of the briefing document for the whole meeting may be ordered for £95 from Westminster Forum Projects.
Today I attended the FSA workshop on Novel Foods Regulations, with Neil Whippey of Eat Grub. It was a really useful and informative although we came away with some challenges for the fledgling UK insects for food sector (insects for feed was not in scope).
Full report will follow as an in-depth article for Woven members (see membership offer coming out soon).
A few highlights:
- There is a £4,000 fee for applying for Novel Food approval and you have to submit one for each individual product that has a distinct risk profile
- There is scope to secure a blanket approval relating to an ingredient but this would potentially need to be very tightly defined – this could mean multiple companies securing this together, or Woven acting on their behalf, to share the costs
- You can trade now and manufacture, market and sell products with whole insect material. From January 2018 when the new regulations come in you will only be able to continue if you are in the process of working through a Novel Foods application – but this process can take up to 18m and you can trade throughout.
- The potential for insect materials in foods to cause allergic reactions needs research and careful thought. Woven will seek to work with its members and the FSA to ensure that the right balance is struck between risks and benefits and we have secured some champions within the FSA and the committee that advises them, with whom we will maintain a positive relationship.
So, definitely a worthwhile event and further signs that Woven Network is going to be critical if this sector is to succeed in the UK.
The European Parliament agreed a new set of Novel Food Regulations on 28 October which recognise that edible insects can be included – whether whole or only part of them.
This will require companies selling products that include insect material to comply with requirements to demonstrate their safety but companies already trading have some time to work up the necessary evidence.
Here is the full text of what was agreed.
It is not an easy ready so here is a link to an article that sets out the implications:
Woven will be keeping in touch with these developments and providing more info as things become clearer. Also, you can join the Forum to take part in discussions on the implications of all this and help us understand your position.
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons