EU food sector asks for new approach methodologies in food safety risk assessment

FoodDrinkEurope (FDE), the organization representing the European food and beverage manufacturing industry, has called for adopting New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) more widely in Europe's scientific and regulatory food risk assessments.    

NAMs are any non-animal-based methods that can help provide toxicological information for evaluating chemical hazards.  

FDE asserts that employing NAMs can enhance the relevance of data for food safety assessments while eliminating the need for animal testing. This demand comes as some animal-based methods are over six decades old and political and social pressures to phase out animal testing are mounting, as exemplified by the recent European Citizens Initiative (ECI) on animal testing.  

FDE also emphasizes the challenge of assessing the safety of new vegan ingredients, given that vegan certification organizations (e.g., European Vegetarian Union, Vegan Action, Vegan Society) all mandate no animal testing.    

FDE highlights that the current EU regulatory framework permits the use of NAMs, as there is a legal obligation in the EU to replace, refine, and reduce animal testing for scientific purposes. Moreover, FDE adds that the European Parliament adopted a plan in 2021 to "accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals," and the EFSA's 2027 strategy supports the development and integration of new scientific advancements that prioritize NAM-based methods while minimizing animal testing.    

FDE believes there should be greater flexibility and consistency in using NAMs for food ingredient safety assessments. NAMs are not uniformly mentioned in risk assessment frameworks for ingredients, and there is limited flexibility for alternative methods to be utilized. According to FDE, this lack of flexibility is exemplified by the recent EFSA Scientific Guidance on data requirements for risk assessments of flavorings used in or on foods, which continues to request more animal test data. FDE states that this demand for additional animal testing without considering NAMs' potential use creates a significant barrier to innovation without improving the risk assessment process. "The lengthy duration of traditional animal studies affects the competitiveness of European businesses and their speed to market. Valuable innovations that benefit consumers and the food sector, while also enhancing sustainability, are often introduced outside the EU, and in some cases, may never reach the EU market," FDE explained.    

FDE calls for EFSA guidance on ingredient safety to reflect new science and allow more NAM use. It also urges the European Commission and EFSA to actively promote increased NAMs application.