rubber stamp marked with regulationEurope’s food industry faces a bright future after MEPs adopted proposals that would allow new foods — such as the latest health-food craze chia seeds — to be placed on the market with far less delay and bureaucracy.

The Novel Foods Regulation has been led through the European Parliament by Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson, who has focused on measures that will streamline the processes for approving new foods, particularly by having one single authorization procedure for the EU, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) taking overall responsibility for the process.

Information given by Fooddrink Europe says that delays of 30 months or longer in approving new food products can reduce companies’ returns on new foods by an average of €4 million per product, making it far less attractive for food companies to invest in new products. The current average approval time is 35 months but the new, centralized, approach will significantly reduce this time to 18–24 months.

The new law updates legislation from 1997. A previous proposal to improve the law fell in 2011 owing to controversies around issues related to cloning. However, in this revised proposal, all matters relating to cloned animals have been separated out into another legislative proposal.

The vote largely endorses an agreement that has been reached between the parliament and EU governments on the legislation, but two small amendments made in the vote may cause a small delay while the minor technicalities are agreed with the ‘Council.’

Speaking after the vote, Jim Nicholson, European Conservatives and Reformists MEP and the ‘rapporteur’ on the proposal, said: “This proposal is good for Europe’s food industry and good for Europe’s food lovers. Chia seeds are one example of a new food that has made a major impact on the market because of its health benefits. There is literally a world of opportunity for food companies out there but our cumbersome authorization processes have discouraged companies from making the right investments.”

“The thorny issue of cloning has delayed this new rule for too long, so the European Commission was right in separating out cloning from this law and passing separate legislation. We cannot afford any more delays,” he added: “This new law gives food companies the incentive to invest more in novel foods, boosting Europe’s food industry, creating jobs and bringing a whole wealth of new food products into our shops.”