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Goji berries not novel food, says FSA

By Stephen Daniells , 18-Jun-2007

Goji berry consumption in the UK has been significant for many years, the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has declared, meaning the berry does not need to be authorised as a novel food.

"In the Agency's opinion, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that goji berries were being consumed to a significant degree in the UK before May 1997," said the FSA in a statement. "This means that the requirements of the novel food regulations do not apply to this product and goji berries can continue to be sold without the need for authorisation." Goji berries, also known as Chinese wolfberries, come from the Lycium barbarum plant, a vine that grows in China, Tibet and other areas of Asia. Understood to be loaded with anti-oxidants and vitamin C, they have shot to popularity in the last couple of years as part of the 'superfruit' trend, which has also seen food and beverage manufacturers catering to consumer demand for pomegranate, cranberries, noni, blackberries, and other exotic produce. Under the 1997 novel foods regulation, a food is judged to be 'novel' if it was not eaten in substantial quantities in the EU before May 1997. The FSA started seeking evidence of goji consumption in February with initial reports suggesting the no significant history of consumption before 1997 was evident. This would have meant that the fruit would need to be authorized as a novel food. In the EU, a food is judged to be novel if it was not eaten in a significant quantity in Europe before May 1997. According to the EU Novel Foods Regulation (EC) 258/97, new foods must be shown to meet three criteria before they can be authorised for sale: they must not be unsafe, their labelling must not be misleading and their nutritional quality must not be inferior to other similar foods that they could replace. Products containing goji berries are already being sold on the UK market.