As the food industry strives to meet consumer demand for innovative products with added health benefits, some foods or ingredients being developed are considered "novel". Under Division 28 (the Novel Food Regulation) of the Food and Drug Regulations, scientific data on novel foods must be submitted to Health Canada for a novel food safety assessment before the foods can be sold or advertised. Submissions that have a demonstrated capacity to enhance microbiological food safety may be given priority. Health Canada maintains a list of approved products.
A Novel Food is:
- a substance that does not have a history of safe use as a food;
- a food that has been manufactured, prepared, preserved or packaged by a process that has not been previously applied to that food and causes the food to undergo a major change; or
- a food that is derived from a plant, animal or microorganism that has been modified through genetic engineering to have altered characteristics (also known as genetically modified foods, GM foods, genetically engineered foods or biotechnology-derived foods).
The Canadian government supported the development of a national standard for the voluntary labelling of foods derived from biotechnology. This process was sponsored by the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, under the guidance of the Canadian General Standards Board.
"Novel fibre" or "novel fibre source" means an ingredient that is manufactured to be a source of dietary fibre, and that:
- is synthetically produced or obtained from natural sources that have no history of safe use as dietary fibre, or
- has been processed so as to modify the properties of the fibre (fine grinding is no longer a factor in determining whether a product is a novel fibre source).
Accepted novel fibres have at least one physiological effect demonstrated by generally accepted scientific evidence. There also are safety considerations unique to novel fibre sources that Health Canada takes into account when evaluating their acceptability as foods.
Once a novel fibre source has been accepted by Health Canada, it is considered to be a dietary fibre and should be declared on food package labels as dietary fibre.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) administers the regulation of novel feeds. Prior to their use in livestock feed in Canada all novel feeds must be authorized based on a safety assessment conducted by CFIA.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the agri-food sector in determining plans and priorities with respect to health claims, novel foods, and ingredients based on information on market opportunities and the current state of science. Contact the Food Regulatory Issues Division for assistance in determining plans and priorities and in navigating the regulatory system and preparing high-quality submissions for novel foods and novel fibres.
- Health Canada Submission Management and Information Unit (SMIU)
The contact point for pre-market submissions for novel foods, food additives, and infant formulas
- Genetically Modified (GM) Foods and Other Novel Foods (Health Canada)
- List of approved novel foods
- Guidelines for the Safety Assessment of Novel Foods Derived from Plants and Microorganisms (2006)
- Priority Scheduling and Expedited Handling of Submissions that Have the Capacity to Enhance Food Safety
- Novel Fibre
- Guideline Concerning the Safety and Physiological Effects of Novel Fibre Sources and Food Products Containing Them (1997)
- Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising - 6.8.1 Dietary Fibre (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)
Lists dietary fibre and novel fibre sources for which Health Canada has issued a letter of no objection, along with the labelling requirements for each fibre source
- Policy for Labelling and Advertising of Dietary Fibre-Containing Food Products
- Voluntary Labelling and Advertising of Foods that Are and Are Not Products of Genetic Engineering (Canadian General Standards Board) (2004)