INSECTS AS FOOD: REGULATORY ASPECTS
Today we are going to talk about food legislation.
The food legislation that we like. The one that looks at the contemporary world and asks the right questions: “hey, is it possible that not considering eating insects all this time was stupid?”.
Who are the people involved? Why are certain procedures in place? Let’s try to understand a few things.
Everything gets interesting with Regulation No. 2283 of 2015, issued by the European Parliament in agreement with the Council.
The new regulation repeals the previous regulation of 1997 and redefines the procedures for the introduction of new foods (novel foods) into the European market.
In short, novel foods, but what are these novel foods?
According to the regulation, the term novel food is to be understood as “any food not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union prior to 15th May 1997“. Foods that, before being put on the market, will have to follow a procedure to calculate the possible risks associated with their consumption.
Worldwide, two billion people habitually supplement their diet with insects. For the legislator, this figure is not enough to demonstrate that there are no risks for human health.
A magnifying glass and bureaucracy, who knows if the many sugary drinks on the market have received the same attention? But let’s not be controversial, or at least not more than necessary, food legislation is needed to protect public health and it is good to have a few too many rules!
First of all, whoever wants to introduce a new food into the single market must submit a request directly to the European Commission and produce a whole series of documents.
In order to receive authorization from the commission, the food in question must:
- Not pose a risk to human safety based on available scientific evidence.
- Provide a use that does not mislead consumers
- If it replaces a food already on the market, it must not be nutritionally disadvantageous.
In addition, if the committee responds positively and deems it necessary, it will also present consumption specifications to recommend to the public. This will ensure a safe and proper use of the product.
The commission can then request the opinion of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority, a supervisory body based in Parma) and they must respond within nine months of receiving the request. This term can be extended in case of need.
The EFSA will then proceed to assess the risks of the food by also comparing it to other products in similar categories.
Once the Authority has presented its report to the Commission, the latter will have a further seven months to submit a proposal for an implementing act to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (established by article 58, paragraph 1, of Regulation (EC) no. 178/2002). This is a key step in authorizing the placing on the novel food market.
Should the commission decide not to approve the introduction of the novel food, the applicant will be notified of the outcome along with the reasons for the decision.
Now, if everything has been done as it should be and the novel food has arrived on the shelves, a new phase of dialogue between the applicant and the commission opens. A dialogue aimed at monitoring the development of the food.
If new scientific evidence comes to light, that too will be discussed, and everything can always be reconsidered.
It’s hard to report everything that needs to happen before something pops up on a supermarket shelf in a fresh and compelling way. Insects, algae, supplements… new things always progress slowly, one step at a time, with a lot of care.
For us, making the choice to be innovative means taking risks.
Risks, patience and lots of work. No problem, we are confident that we will win, and we are sure that guaranteeing a safe product to the consumer is one of the keys to making them fall in love with what we do.
No fear, no obstacles. Stringent food legislation is an asset.
We are talking about quality, quality and respect: of the environment, of work and of laws.
Full steam ahead!