Food Standards Agency
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Views wanted on algal oil

The Agency's expert Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), is consulting on an application from a US company to market oil that is produced from Schizochytrium microalgae, as a novel food ingredient.

A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union (EU) before 15 May 1997.

Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market it must be rigorously assessed for safety. In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).

The simplified approval procedure and 'equivalence'

The company, Ocean Nutrition, has applied for an opinion on the equivalence of a docosahaexanoic acid (DHA)-rich algal oil, compared with a DHA-rich algal oil from the microalgae Schizochytrium produced by Martek Biosciences.

The ACNFP first considered an application for the authorisation of DHA-rich algal oil from the microalgae Schizochytrium as a novel food ingredient during 2001 and 2002. The Food Standards Agency submitted a favourable initial opinion to the European Commission in June 2002 and the product was authorised in 2003. The same applicant, Martek Biosciences, successfully obtained authorisation for use in a wider range of food categories in 2009.

Ocean Nutrition intends to use its DHA-rich oil in the same food categories to those authorised for Martek Biosciences’ oil. These food categories include food supplements, bakery products and breakfast cereals.

The European Commission Novel Foods Regulation includes a simplified approval procedure for use when a company thinks its novel food is substantially equivalent to a food that is already on the market. In such a situation, the applicant can submit a notification to the European Commission after obtaining an opinion on equivalence from an EU member state – in this case, the UK.

Deadline for comments

Any comments on this application should be sent to the ACNFP Secretariat at acnfp@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk by Monday 13 February 2012. The comments will be considered by the committee during its assessment of this novel food ingredient.

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