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Regulatory Challenges of Innovating in the Food Industry

Dr Fiona Lalor

Regulatory Affairs Manager, FHI

Set up in 2008 with the support of Enterprise Ireland, Food for Health Ireland (FHI) is a collaboration between seven Irish public research organisations (PROs), with a multidisciplinary team of 90 scientists and five Irish dairy companies. Its purpose is to identify novel ingredients originating from milk and subsequently to develop functional food ingredients which will offer health benefits to consumers. The researchers have been generating milk hydrolysates and peptides with activity that focus on six specific areas: Technology, Infant Nutrition, Metabolic Health, Appetite Modulation, Healthy Ageing and Performance Nutrition and Healthy Cheeses.

The products, technologies and general know how are beginning to reach a commercialisation stage and the impact of regulation is beginning to have its strongest impact. In terms of health enhancing benefits generated from foods and food ingredients, the principal piece of legislation that can influence the direction of research, is the EU Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims. This legislation is consumer focused, the intention of which is to protect consumers from false and misleading health claims on foodstuffs. In order to make claims, the food industry must comply with this legislation and demonstrate where the science is to support them.

The question remains as to whether this will actually drive or hinder innovation. If the blue sky thinking is only done within the constraints of a strict regulatory environment, where do the new ideas come from? If the blue sky thinking is done with no regulatory considerations at all, where is the marketability and the consumer protection? Does the existence of regulations such as these actually help drive innovation in a particular direction? This presentation will outline briefly the work of FHI and how it operates. It will demonstrate the impact of EU Regulation 1924/2006 on its work and will discuss the overall impact of working within a tight regulatory environment.