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Marketing gold or practical innovation?

As I write this, some of my colleagues are at a conference in Amsterdam, working with their counterparts from all over Europe to review and refine procedures to assess the safety of new foods and technologies, such as nanotechnology. Innovations in food technology are often the result of highly sophisticated scientific research, and while the end products can look like a ploy to increase profits for the food industry, (especially when, as in Times 2 article on Wednesday, we’re talking about pizza that can help us lose weight), the outputs are usually more practical, for example, the discovery of pasteurisation of milk is considered one of the major public health achievements of the 19th century. To further such advances, the Agency has funded a number of horizon-scanning projects over the years to look at what’s currently being developed by industry and universities. Although some of the technologies mentioned in the Times article, such as the radical sounding microencapsulation and high pressure processing could be viewed as novel foods or processes, many aren’t actually all that new. Microencapsulation has been used in probiotics for a number of years, and the safety of high pressure processing, as an alternative to heat pasteurisation, was evaluated for use in the EU a decade ago. It’s the Agency’s job to ensure all novel foods are safe before they are placed on the market, and there’s a well established regulatory framework in place to prevent people from having the wool pulled over their eyes, as Mr Renton puts it. The UK is very active in this area and the Agency is very open about the products it reviews under this Regulation, inviting the public to highlight any concerns they may have. And thanks to work underway in Europe, claims about the health benefits of these new foods will only be allowed if they are underpinned by robust scientific evidence.

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Comments:

Practical innovation every time of course, Andrew. But the pivotal distinction is in the manner and security of application. Therein is the fulcrum between mass benefit or unintended consequence.

The important matter is for innovations that are adopted, be they commercially lucrative or otherwise, can be trusted by the mass of people who lack the grounding to be able to understand the issues behind them.
It boils down to robust regulation.
As you rightly point out the need of the regulator to be able to amass satisfactory independent and unbiased science upon novel foods is crucial to their being approved for market without deferred or unintended consequence.
Additionally, aside from the need to regulate commercially expedient novel innovation is the need not to overlook potential low-input solutions. In part that requires the support of the government of the day prepared to put up sufficient funding as a counter to commercially backed research.

Todays' post inspires confidence as do announcements in the News Centre.

Posted by Agent 3244 on November 20, 2009 at 06:41 PM GMT #

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