ACNFP minutes: 17 May 2006

Minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2006 in Conference Room 5, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London.

Present

Chairman:
Professor Mike Gasson - Chairman

Members:
Professor Ruth Chadwick
Dr Hilary Close
Professor Jim Dunwell
Professor Gary Foster
Professor Alan Malcolm
Professor Ian Rowland

Secretariat:
Ms Azuka Aghadiuno
Ms Shuhana Begum
Mrs Alison Dyson - Minutes
Ms Michelle Gardner
Dr David Jefferies
Dr Sandy Lawrie - ACNFP Secretary
Ms Annie-Laure Robin
Mr Colin Ross

FSA Assessor:
Dr Clair Baynton

Observer:
Miss Jillian Boddy - FSA Scotland

Members are required to declare any personal interest in matters under discussion. Where Members have a particularly close association with any item, the Chairman will limit their involvement in the discussion. In cases where an item is to be discussed in their absence, a Member may make a statement before leaving.

1.Apologies and announcements

  • Apologies were received from Jill Brand, Neville Craddock, John Fowler, Stephen Holgate, Clive Meredith, Peter Shewry, Peter Lund and Tony Williams. Written comments from Clive Meredith, Peter Shewry and Tony Williams were tabled at the meeting. Apologies were also received from observers from FSA Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Mrs Elspeth MacDonald, Mr Phil Morgan, and Mr Gerry McCurdy).
  • The Chairman welcomed Jillian Boddy from FSA Scotland who attended the meeting as an observer.
  • The Chairman announced that Colin Ross would be leaving the Secretariat and that this would be his last meeting.
  • he Chairman reminded Members of the need to announce any commercial interests in the business of the Committee, prior to the discussions on each item.

2. Minutes of the seventy-sixth meeting
DRAFT/ACNFP/76/MIN

Members agreed that the minutes were a true record of the 76th meeting of the ACNFP held on Wednesday 22 March.

3.Matters Arising

Postal consultation on phytosterols produced by DDO processing (paper ACNFP/77/P1)
In April, the Secretariat emailed Members to ask them to consider the revised specification of DDO Processing's phytosterol ingredient. The Committee was also asked to indicate whether it agreed that substantial equivalence had been established between the phytosterols supplied by DDO Processing and the phytosterols marketed by Forbes Medi-Tech.

The Committee agreed that substantial equivalence had been established and that it was satisfied with the text of the draft opinion. The Secretariat therefore advised Members that the draft opinion had been published on the ACNFP website for a 10-day public consultation on 11 May.

Allergenicity testing of GM foods
The Setariat reported that the FSA had responded to Friends of the Earth on 25 April outlining the Committee's advice regarding allergenicity testing for GMOs.

Appointments to the ACNFP
At the March meeting the Secretariat informed the Committee that it was in the process of seeking four new committee members and that advertisements had been published in Nature, and on the Agency and ACNFP websites. Members were informed that the closing date for the receipt of applications was 10 April and that interviews would take place in the next two weeks.

4. Review of novel processing techniques
ACNFP/77/2

Members were asked to consider two recent reviews of innovative food processing techniques commissioned by the Agency in 2004/5. The Committee was specifically asked to consider thirteen processing techniques identified by the Secretariat as potentially novel and to indicate whether a new framework needs to be developed for the evaluation of foods or food ingredients produced using these processes. Members were additionally asked whether the use of any of these processes gives rise to any safety concerns that may require additional assessment by other advisory committees or experts in other fields.

The Committee's discussion focused on four types of processing which involve the use of enzymes, ultra-violet (UV) light, infra-red (IR) radiation and chemicals. Members agreed that the use of enzymes and UV in food processing required consideration of microbiological safety issues but noted that these would fall within the remit of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF). Nevertheless, the Committee highlighted the absence of an industry standard governing use of UV in food processing and indicated that this type of radiation could result in the chemical degradation of organic molecules such as vitamins. Given the reported interest in this technology, the Committee suggested that the impact of the use of UV on nutrient levels should be considered further.

Members had no specific safety concerns over the use of IR in food processing and were of the view that the key issue was effective management of the process.. The Committee also suggested that many ingredients produced using the chemical processes described in the reviews were likely to be covered by additives legislation. Other novel substances used as ingredients in food would be subject to evaluation and authorisation under the novel foods legislation.

Members suggested that the any future consideration of the food applications of nanotechnology, such as the nanoemulsions and nanofiltration that were mentioned in the reviews, would require additional input from a biophysicist.

The Secretariat agreed to pass the Committee's comments to the relevant Division within the Agency.

Finally, the Committee was also asked if it wished to identify any other emerging issues that would require consideration in the next twelve months. The Committee drew attention to its previous discussions regarding the possibility of setting up a working group to examine issues related to the wider allergenicity assessment of GM and other novel foods.

5. Noni leaf
ACNFP/77/3

The Committee was asked to consider an initial opinion from the Belgian Competent Authority on an application for authorisation of noni leaf as a novel food ingredient. The applicant proposed to market the noni leaf extract in several forms, including dried roasted leaves, dried roasted leaves reduced to powder, a freeze dried aqueous infusion, and a pasteurised juice. The applicant also proposed to incorporate the novel ingredient into a wide range of foods, including cereals, meat and fish products, potato-based products, fruit juice, soft drinks, sauces and condiments.

The Committee noted that its earlier discussions on noni juice products had revealed that there is considerable variation within the noni species and indicated that the applicant should be more specific in defining the plants used, as well providing an indication of the maturity of the leaves. Members were also of the view that the applicant should provide data on the variability of the phytochemical content of the noni leaf material as this may be significantly affected by various environmental and genetic factors.

The Committee also drew attention to the estimated intake values provided by the applicant and noted that they seemed low given that the noni leaf products would be used in a wide range of food categories. Members additionally noted that the list of proposed uses included soft drinks, which are likely to be attractive to children. The Committee suggested that the safety of noni leaf products consumed by children requires special consideration.

Members queried the daily dosage of 20mg of noni leaf ethanol extract used in the sub-chronic 90-day oral toxicity study in mice, noting that it appeared to be low given the anticipated intake of the novel food ingredients. The Committee further noted that the intake of noni leaves resulting from their traditional use has not been quantified, but seems to be mainly from their use as a culinary herb. Members therefore stated that in consideration of the potentially high intake resulting from the very broad range of uses proposed by the applicant, the existing toxicological data were not sufficient to demonstrate the safety of the noni leaf products.

The Secretariat agreed to draft a response to the Commission reflecting the concerns of the Committee.

6.Noni juice produced by Leap of Faith Farms
ACNFP/77/4

Members were asked to consider additional information supplied by the applicant in response to the questions raised by the Committee at its January and March meetings, and to comment on the text of a draft opinion on equivalence prepared by the Secretariat.

The Committee's outstanding questions related to the botanical origin of sssthe noni juice, and the shelf life and stability of the dried product. Members felt that more could be done to fully establish the botanical identity of the noni fruit used but indicated that this uncertainty did not give rise to safety concerns. Members also noted that the data provided to support the claimed shelf life were obtained using a test material obtained from dried stock which was around 12 months old, and suggested that this time period defines the acceptable shelf life of the dried material.

The Committee agreed that substantial equivalence had been established, but requested that the Secretariat prepare a revised draft opinion incorporating the points raised during the discussion.

7.Governance of Science
ACNFP/77/5

Members were asked to note the approach being developed within the Agency to the governance of science and to comment on any implications it might have for the Committee's work.

Members noted that the Agency's science check list referred to the need to 'educate consumers', which could be easily misinterpreted, and suggested that terms such as 'likely impact' should be qualified to explain the relationship between the risk assessment and the Regulatory Impact Assessment process.

The Committee welcomed the consideration given to social science, which not only gave insights into consumer behaviour but also addressed other aspects of decision-making such as the handling of uncertainty. Additionally, Members suggested that in addition to consideration of the need for different data sets for different regions in the UK, consideration should also be given to data sets for other population groups, for example on the basis of age or ethnicity.

Finally, the Committee suggested that the document should reflect the importance of peer review in the validation of scientific advice and should define the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to seek out unpublished data. Members commented that it is difficult to make blanket statements about the value of different types of studies and an important role of the expert committees is to exercise judgement on the strength of the available evidence on a case by case basis.

The Secretariat agreed to pass the Committee's comments to the relevant Division within the Agency.

8. Items for information
EU Update: ACNFP/77/6

This paper provided a routine overview of progress on EU issues of relevance to the Committee.

The Secretariat also provided an oral update on an EFSA GM Scientific Forum which had taken place on 15 May. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen relations between GM experts from Member States and to discuss concerns regarding the risk assessment of GMOs and GM food and feed.

Update on substantial equivalence applications:ACNFP/77/7
This paper provided Members with an update on a series of notifications received via the European Commission.

Update on GM food & feed applications:ACNFP/77/8
This paper provided Members with an update on the progress of the thirty-four current applications for GM food and feed products under Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 on GM food and feed.

9.Any other business
The Chairman informed the Committee that this was Dr Hilary Close's last meeting as she was resigning for personal reasons. He thanked her for her contribution to the work of the ACNFP during 2002-2006.

One Committee Member requested further information on the Food Standards Agency�s contribution to the inquiry being conducted into "Scientific advice, risk and evidence: how Government handles them" by the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. The Secretariat agreed to obtain further information and circulate it to the Committee by email following the meeting.

10.Date of next meeting
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 20 July 2006, in Aviation House.