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Full Report on FSA Novel Foods Workshop

Woven was represented at the workshop by Nick Rousseau, Managing Director.  In addition Neil Whippey of EatGrub participated, so was able to speak directly about the experience of a company making products for human consumption.

The process for submitting to secure Novel Food approval and role of Committee and FSA

The process is:

  • Food product company compiles a dossier of evidence and completes application form – submitting to FSA
  • FSA gets the committee to review the dossier and assess the risk
  • Committee may well go back to food company for additional details or to highlight areas of concern
  • Committee ultimately advise FSA on level and nature of risks associated with the food product
  • FSA determines how manageable the risks are and what measures should be taken (eg. Labelling)
  • FSA submits this to European Commission who will generally agree with assessments coming from the UK

The process can take up to 18m and the cost of an application is £4,000

What is submitted for approval could be either:

  • A specific product that contains insect material
  • Insect material ingredients

In the latter scenario, a number of companies that use the same ingredients could benefit from a blanket authority.  They must use essentially identical ingredients, however all complying with common standards.

The dossier of evidence can be very substantial and must include specific laboratory testing (at a recognized laboratory) that shows clearly the key nature of the product/ingredient that would enable a risk assessment to be carried out.  This will include both composition of the insect material plus any contaminants or other materials that might be introduced as a result of the farming method, environment, etc.  There will be significant costs in securing this analysis.

In the former case, if a company has a number of products with different insect materials they will each need individual authorization.

The authorization will specify a given set of restrictions on exactly what is accepted – variety of insect, conditions under which it is farmed, processes of manufacture undertaken, etc..  This will depend on the perception of the variables that could be expected to change the risk profile of the ingredient/product.

Situation regarding the current and new Novel Food Regulations

Companies making products with insect materials could apply right now for Novel Food acceptance.  Not required, however.

Currently any company can manufacture, market and trade food products in the UK that contain whole insects – eg cricket flour.  

From January 2018 it will be required that companies trading with food products containing insect materials submit applications for Novel food recognition, but will still be able to trade during the period during which the application is assessed – can take up to 18m

Particular issues that will affect protein alternatives – particularly food containing insect materials

We had an extensive debate about the fact that a large number of people in the UK (20-25%) are allergic to dust mites and the fact that insect protein will result in an allergic reaction, in some cases potentially very severed in individuals.  There is a need for research to understand the nature of this and how comparable it is to other allergens such as crustaceans, agreed standards for labelling to alert consumers, and post market studies to establish the actual impact on consumers from eating insect products.

The research involved needs to be seen to be independent of the businesses involved.

We were able to secure a commitment from the key member of the committee to find a way to balance the risks and opportunities so that businesses will be able to trade with products including insect material.

This raises many serious issues for the sector and for Woven, in terms of how we can support businesses with this.  One scenario is for Woven to act on behalf of its members and seek a blanket approval for insect ingredients used in a range of individual companies’ products, so that the cost and effort involved can be shared.

We are keen to hear your views!

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FSA Novel Foods Workshop

Food Standards Agency - Featured Image

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.

Nick

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European Novel Foods Regulations now recognise edible insects!

European Parliament - Featured Image

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:

http://foodhealthlegal.com/?cat=17

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.

Nick

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons