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Novel food enthusiasts [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for novel food enthusiasts.

Are you always interested in trying something new? Do you like exploring local delicacies on your travels? Do you think it would not be a bad idea to add insect flour to bread, to enrich it with proteins?

Since 1 January 2018, a new law on novel foods has replaced previous rules in the EU. Novel foods are foods that were not consumed in the EU before May 1997. These can be foods with an intentionally modified molecular structure, food grown from cell culture, micro-organisms, fungi or algae, for example; or exotic products imported. All of these have to be authorised as safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can appear in your supermarket.

© zamuruev / Fotolia

Examples of foods included in the Union list of authorised novel foods are chia seeds, UV-treated yeast and plant-based cholesterols added to fat spreads. Interest in using insects as a new, more environmentally-friendly source of protein compared to traditional meat production is growing. For the first time, whole insects and their parts are covered by the law, ending the situation where some EU countries accepted insect food on their markets while others did not. First applications for authorisation for insects as a novel food have been submitted to the European Commission, concerning whole and ground lesser mealworm larvae and dried mealworms and crickets. EFSA has published a scientific opinion assessing possible risks associated with the use of farmed insects as human food and animal feed. The EU has also funded research exploring insects as a potential new source of protein, such as the PROteINSECT project.

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