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Stinky drink gets whiff of approval

Fancy a stinky drink of noni fruit?

by: Jeremy Smith | 15 Jan 2008

The EU is going to make it easier to obtain drinks made of what is sometimes called "cheese fruit," plus a raft of other exotic products, as regulators agreed to streamline rules for authorizing unusual foods from non-EU countries.

"For these kinds of foods, we created a new notification procedure and this takes the use in the country of origin into account," a Commission food safety expert told reporters, adding that the aim was to eliminate any EU barriers to trade.

EU authorities receive between seven and 10 applications each year for approving "novel foods," defined as foods produced using new technologies and which do not have a significant history of consumption in EU countries before May 1997.

If all is well, national EU experts would then authorise the food for sale across the bloc's 27 national markets. The revised rules, which will have to be debated by farm ministers, will not apply to biotech foods, food additives, flavourings, enzymes, vitamins or minerals since these are covered by separate laws.

One of the best known novel foods on sale in EU supermarkets is noni juice, made from a small tree found mainly in Southeast Asia and various Pacific islands such as Tahiti.

Toxic and smelly, the fruit has a pungent odour when ripening and is also called "vomit fruit." It is a staple for some Pacific islanders.

Recent applications include Argan oil, produced from the nuts of a Moroccan tree and rich in essential fatty acids, and baobab, a dried fruit pulp traditionally eaten in Africa.

Under the proposed revisions to a 1997 law, companies may also request EU approval by showing their product is "substantially equivalent" to another already on the market – such as a new extract made from an existing spice or fruit.

It will not apply to products coming from any offspring of cloned animals.

Last week, the EU's top food safety agency said cloned food products were safe to eat, bringing meat and milk from cloned animals a step closer to being sold in the European Union.

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