Food law progress expected with the Slovenian presidency

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novel foods European union

The food industry can expect to see progress in novel foods
regulation, the Food Improvement Agents Package (FIAP) and the
labelling regulation during Slovenia's presidency of the European
presidency, according to an advisor.

Addressing attendees at a networking dinner hosted by the Food and Drink Federation in Brussels on Tuesday, Meta Geibel, food adviser to the Slovenian presidency, said that the aim to bring about significant progress in the legislative proposals that are on the table. Novel foods ​ Indeed, Geibel noted that the proposed revision to the 1997 Novel Foods Regulation was adopted by the European Commission last week and highlighted that it includes a centralised authorisation procedure and risk assessment. The proposal, which follows lengthy stakeholder consultation, aims to create a more efficient and practical system for new food techniques and technologies to gain access to the European market more quickly, according to EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou. He said it "will offer EU consumers the benefit of the most up-to-date choice of foodstuffs possible and provide a favourable environment for the food industry in Europe." ​A recent report by economist Graham Brookes concluded that innovation in the European food industry is hampered by the present novel foods regulation, since it takes an average of 2.5 years, compared to 6.5 months for an ingredient to achieve GRAS approval in the US. He also drew attention to the lack of incentive for companies to conduct research and development, since no market exclusivity is granted. This opens the way for other companies to imitate the innovators, and cash-in on their investment. Beata Kettilitz, director of food policy, science and R&D at the CIAA (Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union), told that the first priority of novel foods legislation needs to be to ensure the safety of food on the market. But it is also vital to increase competitiveness, and increase speed to market. She said the CIAA is pleased that some of its concerns appear to have been taken on board - such as the possible necessity of data protection - but that in depth analysis of the wording will enable to organisation to develop its position. The next stage in the process of bringing the revision into law is discussion amongst the member states, and the rapporteur to lead parliamentary debate is expected to be announced next week. FIAP ​ Geibel said that debate over the new FIAP regulation between the Parliament and Council of Ministers is still on-going, but it is hoped that agreement will be reached at the second reading. If it is adopted in mid 2008, accounting for two years for full enactment the new regulation would then fully apply by mid-2010. The FIAP regulation covers food additives, flavourings, enzymes, and the common authorisation procedure. It brigs together some 12 different pieces of EU legislation under one banner. Food labelling ​A DG Sanco draft was circulated to stakeholders in November, and the full proposal on the new food labelling legislation is expected to be published at the end of this month or beginning of February. Geibel said: "Political discussion will take place as soon as the proposal is ready​". However Sabine Nafziger, director of consumer information, diet and health issues at the CIAA said that she does not think the first reading will be closed before summer. In fact, there is no time limit on first readings, which can go on for as long as a year, depending on the complexity. ​Slovenia took over the EU presidency on January 1, and is the first of the newly acceded member states to hold the revolving six-month position.

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