The Southern African Regional Dialogue on Novel Foods Workshop, 27-28 October 2008
Taku Fundira, Researcher at tralac, attended the Southern African Regional Dialogue on Novel Foods Workshop hosted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Cape Town on 27 and 28 October 2008.
The purpose of the Workshop was to contribute to the revision process of the Regulation on novel foods currently being undertaken at the EU level.
Novel foods can be classified as foods and ingredients consisting of or containing chemical substances not hitherto used for human consumption, including micro-organisms, fungi, or algae and substances isolated from them, and organisms obtained using genetic modification techniques.
The EU defines a novel food as a type of food that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union prior to May 1997. Such foods are regulated according to the Novel Foods Regulation and need prior approval before they can be traded or consumed within the EU.
The Novel Foods Regulation, which among other stipulations states that foods and food ingredients falling within the scope of this regulation must not:
- present a danger for the consumer;
- mislead the consumer; and
- differ from foods or food ingredients which they are intended to replace to such an extent that their normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer.
The two day workshop was attended by more than 20 stakeholders, including representatives from government, business, international and regional organizations and civil society.
On the agenda was the current work undertaken by UNCTAD, other organizations and private companies in the region relating to novel foods. Challenges associated with market access for novel foods were discussed including the requirements by different countries including the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. A session regarding the role of the WTO, the Convention on Biodivesity (CBD) and organizations such as Phytotrade Africa provided an insight on the complexity of the novel foods industry and regulations related to this sector.
Because the Workshop was specifically held to discuss the pending proposed EU Novel foods regulation, emphasis was placed on discussing the current regulations, proposed changes and possible implications for the region.
The Workshop concluded by highlighting areas of concern that were identified by stakeholders which will be presented to the European decision-makers who are currently discussion the proposed regulation.