A novel food is any food or ingredient that has not been used for human consumption to a significant degree in the European Union (EU) before 15 May 1997. Similarly, a food or ingredient placed on the market before 15 May 1997 is not a novel food, if it has been used for human consumption to a significant degree within the EU.
For example, foods manufactured using nanotechnology and insects are novel foods. Similarly, wild plants can be novel foods if they have not been consumed for human consumption to a significant degree in the EU before 15 May 1997.
Novel food categories
Novel food shall fall under at least one of the following categories:
1. Food with a new or intentionally modified molecular structure;
2. Food consisting of, isolated from or produced from microorganisms, fungi or algae;
3. Food consisting of, isolated from or produced from material of mineral origin;
4. Food consisting of, isolated from or produced from plants or their parts;
5. Food consisting of, isolated from or produced from animals or their parts;
6. Food consisting of, isolated from or produced from cell culture or tissue culture derived from animals, plants, micro-organisms, fungi or algae;
7. Food resulting from a production process not used for food production within the Union before 15 May 1997, which gives rise to significant changes in the composition or structure of a food, affecting its nutritional value, metabolism or level of undesirable substances;
8. Food consisting of engineered nanomaterials;
9. Vitamins, minerals and other substances used in accordance with Directive 2002/46/EC, Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 or Regulation (EU) No 609/2013;
10. Food used exclusively in food supplements within the Union before 15 May 1997, where it is intended to be used in foods other than food supplements as defined in point (a) of Article 2 of Directive 2002/46/EC;
Only authorised novel foods may be placed on the market
An authorisation is required to place a novel food on the market. There are two different ways to apply for a novel food authorisation: the application procedure or the notification procedure.
In the application procedure, the safety of the novel food is assessed. The application for authorisation is submitted in the electronic system found on the European Commission's novel food website. The application for authorisation shall include, inter alia, information about the composition and safety of the novel food. The safety of the novel food is assessed by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA.
The notification procedure is intended for traditional foods from third countries. The notification shall contain information about the safe use of traditional food in a third country for a period of at least 25 years.
The novel food authorisation are granted by the European Commission. The Commission shall include the authorised novel foods to the Union list of authorised novel foods.
Authorised novel foods include e.g.
- certain foods with added plant sterols,
- krill oils and algae oils that are rich in omega fatty acids,
- chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) as well as
- fruit products processed by means of high-pressure pasteurisation.
The safety of these foods has been assessed and novel food authorisation has been granted for these foods.
More information about authorisation procedures can be found on the website of the Commission.
The placing on the market of an unauthorised novel food is not allowed
Unauthorised novel food must not be placed on the market, because its safety as food has not been ensured. In other words, an unauthorised novel food does not meet the safety requirement for foods. If unauthorised novel foods are detected during food control, this will result in a request for clarification and usually in the withdrawal of an unauthorised novel food from the market.