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The new foods: recent legal developments

The «new foods» entail the advent and use of generic media terms such as "novelty", of which the basic intention is to highlight the fact that a substance, product, material or food ingredient is original, newly created, or appearing and being used for the first time. This being the case, we need to ask what sort of regulation or control is called for with respect to the new foods. The interests of the parties involved (the consumers, food industry and the authorities) are seemingly best served by an approach other than the conventional one of legislation and regulation. This is now basically true in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, and the EEC countries are compiling their own specific regulation.

The food industry acknowledges that government controls are useful and desirable, but they do lead to over-regulation: the industry therefore sees such controls as a barrier to the harmonious development of the industry. It must be decided how to define the "new products" as well as which criteria to use for evaluation purposes. Both these decisions should be taken from the perspective of a legislator whose objective is to take all appropriate steps to protect the public and at the same time foster recourse to science and technology for improving the supply situation. Furthermore, the development of these new techniques may well have negative repercussions on the fragile economies of some developing countries. Producers of rare essences and staple commodities used in the manufacture of luxury foods could easily lose an important source of foreign currency, for instance.

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