EU laws hinder food innovation

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Stephanie Steege (left) and Kavita Karnik discuss the impact of EU law on food innovation
Stephanie Steege (left) and Kavita Karnik discuss the impact of EU law on food innovation
Laws defining the ingredients that can legally be used in food production are lagging behind innovations made by the industry, according to a panel of experts.

Stephanie Steege, founder of confectionery manufacturer Kaakao, told attendees at this year’s Ingredients Show – held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham – that current restrictions in EU law were holding back advances in food manufacturing.

Discussing the impact of EU law on her company’s chocolate product, Steege said: “This bar is officially not allowed to be called chocolate – it is ‘illegal’ chocolate – because, according to the EU, dates are not considered to be a sweetener/sugar, so we cannot call it ​[chocolate].

‘Hands are tied’

“I think that’s a very good example of how crazy this world is. You couldn’t really find anything purer than dried, milled dates that look exactly like sugar and contain a lot of nutrients, but the law is 50 years old. There needs to be some change with the innovation that’s happening, as well on the law side, because otherwise our hands are tied.”

On the flip side of the coin, limitations of EU law mean that some products – such as Tate & Lyle’s sweetener Allulose, which is yet to be approved for use in the EU – may be defined as a sugar under existing rules, despite it having fewer calories and a potentially better option for diabetics.

‘Law struggles’

Vice President of global nutrition at Tate & Lyle Kavita Karnik suggested that in some cases – such as with allulose – sugar was a misleading term from a chemical perspective and rules around usage and labelling should take this into account. She also emphasised the opportunity to replace so called ‘bad carbohydrates’ like sugars with ‘good carbohydrates’ like fibre, but stressed that demonising nutrients was unhelpful.

One of the challenges we face everywhere is that although ​[Allulose] has 70% less sweetness, it has less than 10% of calories. Chemically it’s a mirror image of fructose and that’s why the law struggles, because law calls it a monosaccharide.

“So​ [under law] it should label as a sugar, but that’s not true because you’re not getting the calories. More importantly, you’re not getting the glycaemic response, which means you’re actually misleading the consumer. The regulator definitely lags behind when the technology is moving way ahead.”

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