Saskatoon berries

May 2004: Application from Prairie Lane Ltd for an opinion on the equivalence of saskatoon berries to blueberries. Rejected June 2004.

About saskatoon berries
The saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt., Rosaceae) is the small purple fruit of a shrub found in North America, particularly in the north-west of Canada, and has been grown commercially since the late 1960s.

Although saskatoon berries are well known as a wild fruit in this region, they have only been grown commercially for ten years and do not have a significant history of consumption in Europe before May 1997, so are considered a 'novel food' in the European Union (EU).

ACNFP evaluation
Following an initial public consultation period, this application was discussed at the 27 May 2004 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).

While the Committee acknowledged that saskatoon berries have a history of consumption in Canada and do not appear to present any safety concerns, it concluded that they could not be considered substantially equivalent to blueberries as the two species are unrelated and have very different compositions. The Committee therefore advised that saskatoon berries should not be considered for authorisation under the simplified procedure for novel foods.

UK Competent Authority opinion
The Food Standards Agency wrote to Prairie Lane in June 2004 to advise them that saskatoon berries do not qualify for the simplified approval procedure and are subject to a full pre-market safety assessment before they can be sold in the EU.

Further information
Towards the end of 2004, information came to light concerning the commercialisation of saskatoon berries in Finland, which began in 1996. After examining this information, the Finnish authorities concluded that there is a significant history of consumption of the berries in Finland before May 1997, and that they cannot therefore be considered as 'novel' for the purposes of the novel foods regulation.

This conclusion has been notified to the Competent Authorities in the other Member States and it was agreed that the berries do not require authorisation under the regulation.