Raspberry ketones are natural phenolic compounds found in red raspberries, which have received a lot of media publicity over recent years for their ‘miracle weight-loss’ properties in supplements and other food and drink products.
While some raspberry ketone extracts (4-(p-hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one) have been used for many years as a flavouring in compliance with the EU Flavourings Regulation (1334/2008/EC), the FSA has concluded that other forms of the ingredient require novel foods approval.
Many companies around the world have begun selling products containing these forms of raspberry ketones. But questions have been raised about the robustness of the science behind the functional claims being made for them. Others have raised concerns about their safety. A quick search on the internet for raspberry ketones, returns more than 7M results and numerous products for sale to UK customers.
FSA: raspberry ketones are novel food
Following a recent consultation exercise, the FSA confirmed its view that in most cases raspberry ketones were a ‘novel food’, and would require products on sale containing them to go through an approvals procedure by the UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). Without this approval by the ACNFP in the UK – required if products do not have a history of consumption in the EU prior to May 1997 – novel foods should not be on sale in the UK or elsewhere in in the EU.
Last October the FSA began to publish information on its web site about ingredients on sale in the UK market for which there was no such approval. This included raspberry ketones, together with Acacia rigidula (also known as blackbrush acacia)and Mesquite (propis pallida, found in South American meal flour). It also opened a consultation to gather the views of interested parties involved with raspberry ketones.
Following a review of information it received from a small number of interested parties, the FSA plans to update the advice it gives about raspberry ketones on its web site later this week. The FSA’s enforcement team has also sent an update to Trading Standards, and a letter to those contributing to the consultation.
Some extracts are exempt
The FSA letter states: “We have confirmed that some raspberry fruit extracts, which may or not be marketed as ‘raspberry ketones’, are outside the definition of a novel food, based on conclusions reached in other EU Member States. This is limited to extracts prepared using water or 20% ethanol (1:4 ethanol:water). These extracts therefore do not require authorisation as novel foods.”
However, the FSA goes on to say: “We have not received any other information that provides evidence of a history of significant consumption of raspberry ketones prior to May 15 1997. We therefore remain of the view that raspberry ketones, other than the extracts mentioned above, are novel and fall within the scope of the EU legislation on novel foods.”
Trading Standards have been made aware by the FSA of the regulatory position relating to raspberry ketones and the types of extracts that would be regarded as novel. The letter sent to them also provides clarity on the use of raspberry ketone as a flavouring.
“Therefore, it is appropriate for enforcement officers to take necessary action by contacting manufacturers and retailers of these various products in order to ensure that they comply with relevant legislation,” the FSA told FoodManufacture.co.uk in a statement.
Raspberry ketones are just one of a number of unapproved novel foods known to be currently on sale in the UK. Part of the problem with getting them removed from sale is that local authority Trading Standards departments, whose job it is to monitor and enforce the law in this area, do not have sufficient resources to do so.