Release novel foods documents, rapped supplements maker tells FSA

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Novel foods, Food, Herb

A Welsh food supplements company is calling on the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to release documents that may shed light on why a herb’s novel status was changed shortly before a court case it lost over illegal use of that same herb – Festuca arundinacea.

In a letter to the FSA, Asphalia Food Products Ltd managing director, Roger Coghill, questioned why the FSA had reneged on a commitment to release the documents under a Freedom of Information request by employing a 20-day extension provision.

“By making use of the provision to extend the deadline by 20 days and cite possible reasons for exemption, you are effectively removing our ability to decide whether to appeal the recent Court decision,”​ Coghill wrote in his letter to the FSA.

Uncertain status

Coghill and Asphalia want to know why the ingredients’ novel foods status was changed from ‘uncertain’ shortly before a court action was mounted by a Welsh local authority in January this year.

Asphalia believes these documents will highlight evidence demonstrating a safe history of use was not considered in the novel foods status update, which meant its use of the ingredient became illegal because it did not possess a novel foods authorisation.

The Welsh court heard allegations that FSA official, Dr Chris Jones, abused his position in influencing the status for the herb used as a sleep aid to be changed, but said the allegations were immaterial to the case at hand.

“The allegation was examined by the court but found there was no abuse of process,”​ an FSA spokesperson told recently. “The change to the entry for ​Festuca arundinacea was overdue as the consensus on its status was first reached in September 2005."

But in his letter Coghill called for Festuca arundinacea ​to be reclassified in the EU novel foods catalogue as a food supplement on the back of letters from other suppliers and manufacturers that demonstrated use before May 15, 1997.

Novel foods rules

European Union novel foods regulations state foods and ingredients must gain novel foods approval if they cannot demonstrate a history of use within the 27-member state community before May, 1997.

Asphalia would like to see the ingredient classified as having a safe history of use because it says a novel foods application can take years and cost upwards of €300,000. It is for these reasons it had not applied for novel foods approval and why it lost the case once the court deemed there was no impropriety in the ingredients status being changed.

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