Risk Assessment and Risk Management of novel Plant Foods

Concepts and Principles

image of Risk Assessment and Risk Management of novel Plant Foods

Novel food regulation is already in force in the European Community, Australia/New Zealand and in Canada. These regulations distinguish between traditional plant foods and novel plant foods, as the novel plant foods need to go through a premarket assessment procedure. This report focus on developing a proposal for definitions and criteria for determining if a plant food is traditional or novel and a proposal for an approach for the safety assessment of such plant foods with no or limited documented history of safe consumption. The report recommend to introduce a 2-step management procedure, first to establish the novelty and secondly to define and commit resources for the safety assessment, and recommend to generate and use a worldwide net of global, regional, local and ethnobotanical positive lists for food plants to guide both the decision on novelty and the safety assessment. The report recommends using the ”history of use”-concept and if the data submitted can support the claim that a product has a history of safe use, the approval can be straightforward. In Europe around 300 food plants deliver near 100% of human daily intake of plant food calories while nearly 7,000 other food plant species are used in other parts of the world. This report focuses on the situation when novel food items from these 7,000 plants are to enter the European or other regional market.



Historical experience

Nowadays the general advice on good eating habits from a nutritional view point is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day to ensure the intake of the necessary amount of nutritionally important proteins, amino acids, fats and fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins and minerals together as well as a variety of plant metabolites such as plant phenols, isothiocyanates, indoles and carotinoids with and without nutritional relevance. It is now recognized that an upper safe level exists for most of these plant constituents, and that many food plants as part of their self-protection against plant diseases due to microbes and pests form toxic plant constituents without any nutritional benefit, but maybe a health benefit to humans. Intake of plant foods like cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) and grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) may give rise to acute and chronic intoxications in human. In spite of that, the starch-filled roots of cassava have a major role in today’s food supply in many tropical regions. The roots contain cyanogenic glycosides, and raw or inadequately processed roots may cause acute symptoms or chronic neurological disorders (see 4.8 for further details). Excessive consumption of the seeds of the legume grasspea causes lathyrism, a neurodegenerative and irreversible spastic paraparesis (Spencer et al. 1986, Getahun et al. 2003). The toxic substance is the neuroexcitatory amino acid β-N-oxalyl-α,β- diaminopropionic acid (ODAP), but the direct effect of ODAP is still not figured out (Rao 2001). Since grasspea is highly drought- and floodresistant, the seeds may still constitute a major part of the diet during famine crisis. Outbreaks of lathyrism epidemics have occurred within the last ten years in Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia. Recently there has been a renewed interest in cultivating grasspea in Italy and Poland (Getahun et al. 2005), and the first variety of grasspea (Ceora) with low level of ODAP is just released in Australia (Siddique and Hanbury 2005).


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