Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Food safety authority to reconsider monk fruit extract ‘novel food’ evaluation, court hears

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is to reconsider a decision that an extract of monk fruit manufactured by a Chinese firm must go through an evaluation process before it can be marketed, the High Court has heard.

Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation brought judicial review proceedings in 2022 claiming the FSAI acted “irrationally” and “unreasonably” when it classified its monk fruit decoction product as a “novel food” under an EU regulation.

Monk fruit is a small round fruit from the melon family primarily cultivated in southern and eastern provinces of China. Decoctions are water extracts obtained by steeping the fruit in hot water.

A “novel food” is one that has not been used to a significant degree for human consumption in the EU before May 15th, 1997. It must therefore meet requirements including being safe for consumers and properly labelled so as not to mislead.

Guilen, which is registered in Guangxi, China, and is a joint venture with a New Zealand company called BioVittoria, claimed the FSAI decision would have “serious, long-lasting and unjustified repercussions” for the firm.

It was claimed it was completely unclear how and why the FSAI rejected extensive documentation Guilen submitted about the pre-1997 food consumption of the decoction in the United Kingdom.

The authority also misdirected itself on what was the appropriate legal test to apply in determining significant pre-1997 consumption within the EU had not been proven, it was claimed.

In legal documents, the company also said it provided evidence from members of the Chinese community resident in the EU that they consumed monk fruit “foods”, which were “readily available” in most Chinese supermarkets in the UK/EU before 1997.

The FSAI, it said, has described data from questionnaires and fact-to-face interviews as being of “limited use” as primary evidence of a history of significant consumption since it may not be verifiable compared to product receipts or import and export data published by a reliable source.

In 2022, Guilen was granted leave by the High Court to bring its proceedings against the FSAI and the matter was adjourned from time to time.

This week, Ms Justice Niamh Hyland was told it had been agreed to quash the decision and, on consent, to send it back to the FSAI for reconsideration.

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