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Development and Marketing of New Proteins

30 March 2012

Because large quantities of soya and other protein-rich animal feed are required for the production of meat, researchers are seeking alternative sources of protein for both human and animal consumption. Among those being investigated are algae and insects, writes Chris Harris.

However, when companies develop new proteins to be sold in shops, the researchers have found that they are meeting obstacles in the form of complex, non-transparent procedures within the Novel Food Regulation.

There is also no guarantee that consumers will buy these new proteins or that manufacturers will incorporate them into their products.

However, there are opportunities available to improve the situation according to a study from Wageningen UR.

The research was carried out among companies, the public and legal organisations and examined the obstacles to the development of new proteins as well as possible solutions.

The study found that the most important impediments, which companies experience in the development and marketing of new proteins are the complex and opaque procedures of the Regulation on novel foods and novel food ingredients and an insufficient acceptance from consumers and producers.

However, the report says that companies and the authorities can remove these impediments by increasing the interaction between the authorities and the applicant during the preparation of the dossiers and by clarifying the requirements imposed on the authorisation and notification dossiers for the admission of novel foods to the market.

The companies and authorities also need to stress the health benefits and sustainability of new proteins to consumers.

The university research team added that the harmonisation of definitions and procedures relating to the Regulation on novel foods and novel food ingredients need to be on the EU's agenda.

The study also found that companies are often stalled by the opaque criteria and procedures of the regulation on nutrition and health claims and by the lack of clarity as to whether insects fall within the scope of the authorisation procedure for the admission of novel foods to the market.

The researchers said there is a complete absence of specific legislation and regulations governing insects.

They also warned that there will be a high cost in scaling up pilot-plant processes to commercial installations and to the production sector and there is an inadequate tailoring of subsidies to meet the needs of companies particularly in the small and medium sized enterprise sector.

There are also at present inadequate government incentives to encourage the development of sustainable protein supplies.

The Wageningen team said the both companies and authorities need to be transparent in their nutrition and health claims for these novel products and the claims also need to be examined by the European Union.

It said the regulations need to be expanded to include the new proteins such as insects which are widely eaten outside of the EU.

Voluntary private codes of practice as well as legislation and regulations need to be ddevelopto lay down specific specifications and standards for insects and action needs to be taken to ensure finance is available to scale up production from research to commercial production including involving companies, particularly from the SME sector, in the research.

The Wageningen team also called for more government contributions to be made provide incentives for establishing sustainable protein supplies.

The research followed a rrequestfrom the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation to Wageningen UR (University and Research Centre) to make an inventory of the impediments companies experience in the development and marketing of new sources of proteins and to review potential means of removing the impediments.

Eleven companies that develop or produce new sources of protein in the Netherlands were interviewed, as well as six organisations involved in the statutory and legal issues associated with the production of new proteins. The project group has generalised the results and classified the findings into impediments and solutions.

March 2012

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