China introduces new novel foods regulation
The new regulation will affect all companies and individuals manufacturing and trading in novel foods, which will now have to undergo a series of strict procedures before the country's ministry of health will allow products on the market. Novel foods are defined as ingredients that have not traditionally formed part of the Chinese diet. Novel foods are usually ingredients used in ready-to-consume products, such as health drinks, and so consumers are less likely to be aware of exactly what they are consuming unless they examine the label. The market for novel foods in China is still largely untapped, but is expected to grow with the wealth of the country. The regulation broadly categorises these into four groups, according to Chinadaily.com. The first category is for animals, plants, microorganisms, the second is for seldom-used ingredients aside from animals, plants, microorganisms, while the third covers newly discovered microorganisms applied during food processing. The fourth category covers food ingredients whose structure has been modified by new techniques. To drive the novel food industry, the regulation aims to remove complex approval procedures, while tightening food safety measures, the country's health ministry told Chinadaily.com. The regulator said the government encouraged the scientific research and development of novel foods as it wanted to add greater variety to the market. Currently, there are some 340 novel foods on the market, but these may be reviewed to comply with the new rules. In 2006, the sugar replacer Isomalt became the first non-Chinese food to pass the existing novel food approval process set by the health ministry, according to maker Palatinit. Health authorities will be required to conduct spot checks on manufacturers and track the quality and safety of novel products. Companies that overstate the medical performance of novel foods will be punished, said Chinadaily.com.