EU Specialty Food Ingredients News

2015-10Stimulating innovation for specialty food ingredients

At the occasion of EXPO MILANO, the European Commission organised on 10 October a conference on innovation in food, to which EU Specialty Food Ingredients contributed with a presentation delivered by Dr Huub Scheres, Vice-Chair of the EU Specialty Food Ingredients Food Improvement Agents Committee.

In line with the Expo’s theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, Dr Scheres explained to a broad audience how specialty food ingredients contribute to the safety and convenience of foods, provide a technical and market response to public health needs, are part of the solution for sustainable food systems and support the competitiveness of the European food and drink industry. The crucial role played by innovative ingredients in food reformulation and novel foods’ offer was acknowledged by the food industry. In order to enhance the benefits of specialty food ingredients, it is essential that a research-oriented regulatory framework be developed, notably by facilitating the capacity of new products to capture the market and by reducing the time between initial investment in research and the launch of the product.

Web streaming of the conference is available here (except in Germany).

The conference was the finalisation of the dialogues with citizens that are initiated during the opening conference on “Safety and Nutrition in 2050” in relation to innovation & technology. It followed a two-day workshop organised by the Joint Research Center and DG SANTE at Ispra (8-9 October) on Regulatory Challenges on Innovation in Food, in which EU Specialty Food Ingredients co-chaired a working group on food industry needs and delivered two presentations on:

Scientific trends & innovation for food improvement agents: Dr Bruins gave a long and medium term picture of scientific developments in terms of food additives, food enzymes and novel food ingredients.
EU Specialty Food Ingredients' point of view on regulatory stimulation of innovation: Dr Brookes presented the preliminary findings of an EU Specialty Food Ingredients research project on the impact of EU regulation on innovation in the specialty food ingredients sector.

The results of the workshop were presented at the conference, which was the opportunity to exchange views between researchers, regulators, the food industry and the citizens. It aimed to “better understand the concerns, communicate with the citizens and consider approaches on how the legislation can better guarantee that future innovations will meet consumer needs”, as was explained by the organisers. They also felt that such an interaction with citizens was needed “for innovations in food as these may be potentially controversial. Food additives, enzymes, flavourings, novel foods, and food contact materials are part of these innovations. This may include prolonging shelf life, facilitating production processes, making better use of primary materials, creating new foodstuff, new innovative intelligent and active packaging etc. But are consumers ready to accept such innovation? Often a lack of understanding leads to fear and suspicion.”

The European Commission summarised the main conclusions of the workshop as follows:

  • A solid regulatory framework is in place in the EU
  • The role of EFSA is acknowledged: safety first!
  • Procedures for authorisation of new ingredients are not clear
  • Data requirements are not necessarily understood
  • Timelines for authorisation of new ingredients are too long
  • There is a need for clear and transparent information
  • Industry shall be proud of its innovations
  • Dialogue shall be improved.

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