Novel foods are foods that have not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the past and may be derived from non-traditional sources or use new technologies to create or modify food products. These foods may also have novel characteristics that differ from traditional foods, such as unique nutritional properties, new sensory experiences, or enhanced shelf life.

The concept of novel foods was first introduced by the European Union (EU) in 1997 with the aim of ensuring the safety of these foods for human consumption while also promoting innovation in the food industry. The EU defines novel foods as “food or food ingredients that have not been used for human consumption to a significant degree within the EU before May 15, 1997.”

In order to bring novel foods to market in the EU, a company must go through a rigorous safety assessment process. The assessment evaluates the potential risks and benefits of the food, as well as its nutritional composition and intended use. The process is overseen by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is responsible for providing scientific advice to the European Commission on matters relating to food safety.

A simplified procedure with less strict requirements can be followed for traditional foods from a third country, meaning foods with a history of safe food use (HoSU) in a country outside the EU.

The whole process for novel food authorization can take several years and may involve animal testing, clinical trials, and other forms of research. If a novel food is approved for sale in the EU, it will be subject to strict labeling requirements to ensure that consumers are aware of its novel status.

Examples of novel foods include insects, algae-based foods, and foods derived from new production processes (such as UV-treated milk or bread).

Insects are considered a novel food in the EU, although they have been consumed by humans in many cultures around the world for centuries. Insects are a rich source of protein and other nutrients and may offer a sustainable alternative to traditional sources of animal protein.

Algae-based foods are another example of a novel food that is gaining popularity due to its nutritional benefits and sustainable production methods. Algae are rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids and can be grown using minimal resources such as water and sunlight.

Ultraviolet (UV) light treatments are also being used to create novel foods. For example, scientists have used UV radiation to treat cow’s milk after pasteurization to extend the shelf life of the milk. This treatment results in an increase in vitamin D3 concentrations as well, which could be used to help combat deficiencies in populations with limited sun exposure.

The development of novel foods has the potential to address many of the challenges facing the global food system, including population growth, climate change, and food insecurity. However, the introduction of new foods also raises questions about safety, ethics, and consumer acceptance.

Critics of novel foods argue that the safety assessment process is not robust enough to ensure that these foods are safe for human consumption and that the long-term health effects of consuming these foods are not well understood. There are also concerns about the potential for unintended environmental consequences from the use of new technologies in food production.

In conclusion, novel foods are an important area of innovation in the food industry, offering the potential for new sources of nutrition, improved sustainability, and enhanced food security. However, the safety and ethical considerations for the development and consumption of these foods must be carefully evaluated to ensure that they are safe and beneficial for both human health and the environment.

Would you like to gain more input on What is Novel Foods? Or are you looking for regulatory assistance to support you in launching your Novel Food Product across the EU market? Reach out to Freyr.