What is a Novel Food?

Product formulation is an important part of the Food / Sports Supplement industry. In an industry where competition is extremely fierce, redesigning products through research and development becomes highly important. Developing new ingredients may make the difference between a typical product and a blockbuster. However, for products to be marketed and sold in the EU market, regulations and directives need to be followed. It is here where ingredient development may be influenced by the Novel Food Regulation (EC 258/97).

So what is a Novel Food? According to Regulation (EC) 258/97 (revision of the Regulation is pending), Novel Foods are:

– foods and food ingredients with a new or intentionally modified primary molecular structure;
– foods and food ingredients consisting of or isolated from microorganisms, fungi or algae;
– foods and food ingredients consisting of or isolated from plants and food ingredients isolated from animals, except for foods and food ingredients obtained by traditional propagating or breeding practices and having a history of safe food use;
– foods and food ingredients to which has been applied a production process not currently used, where that process gives rise to significant changes in the composition or structure of the foods or food ingredients which affect their nutritional value, metabolism or level of undesirable substances.

which have not been on the European market before the day in which the Regulation entered into force on 15 May 1997,

It is here that we see that Novel Foods have been typically modified chemically, through manufacturing processes, consist of or isolated from microorganisms or plants and animals other than typical means having a history of safe food use (i.e., not consumed in the EU before 1997).

One may also search the Novel Food Catalogue. It is important to note that this database is for informational purposes only and one should always check with their national authorities to be sure.

How can a substance be determined to be a Novel Food or not when uncertainty exists? A technical data sheet is an excellent first piece of information to use to understand the contents of a substance. One may also contact the producing company requesting further information, explanations etc. Also, it may be possible to read the patent (if the ingredient has been patented) to understand how the ingredient was created (generally a patent awarded of 1997 is evidence that a subtance is a novel food).

Sport Nutrition Team

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