Novel foods are a food or food ingredient that do not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997. Before a new product or ingredient can be introduced onto the European market, it needs pass a safety assessment, which ultimately leads to novel foods status. The UK's Food Standards Agency is now calling for comments on the D-Ribose novel foods application. Ribose Ribose is a naturally occurring monosaccharide essential to every living cell and a building block of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the most important energy pool for the human body, fuelling processes like muscle contraction. When the ATP pool is used up, the human body restores energy levels by converting glucose to ribose and then finally ATP. However this process can be speeded up by taking ribose supplements. In the body, ribose is produced via the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP). According to Bioenergy, when D-ribose - produced from Bacillus subtilis - is used as a supplement, it allows the cell to avoid the limit on the amount of ribose produced in the PPP. This process helps provide the body with more energy, says the company. Bioenergy originally developed ribose - manufactured through fermentation of corn-derived glucose and then ethanol extraction - for a pharmaceutical application to speed up heart patient recovery after surgery. However it introduced the ingredient for sports nutrition products in 1998, following studies showing its benefits on athletic performance, including energy recovery, and its reduction of muscle soreness and stiffness associated with overwork. Ribose in EuropeIn 2005, Bioenergy signed a deal with Acatris for the distribution of its D-Ribose ingredient to all markets outside the US, Japan, China and Taiwan. However, the following year, ingredient company Frutarom acquired Acatris' health division, and with that took over on the distribution of D-Ribose to European customers for use in dietary supplements. Ribose in foods In its application for novel foods status last month, Bioenergy proposes that the ingredient could be used in food applications including chocolate confectionery, beverages, dairy and meal replacement products. In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). FSA is now calling for views and comments on the application, which must be submitted by 28 April 2008 and will be passed to the committee before it finalises its opinion on this novel food ingredient. Novel foods According to the EU Novel Foods Regulation (EC) 258/97, new food ingredients must be shown to meet three criteria before they can be authorised for sale: they must not be unsafe, their labelling must not be misleading and their nutritional quality must not be inferior to other similar foods that they could replace. Novel food qualification covers food groups such as plant algae, fungi microorganisms and animal derived foods, but also foods that have altered compositional structure. However, there has been some debate surrounding the novel foods system, which is lengthy and is thought to stifle innovation as companies wishing to use a new ingredient in a supplement or fortified food have a long wait on their hands for approval. The European Commission is said to be preparing a revision of the novel foods rule, which is aimed at simplifying the process and fostering innovation. The revision would reduce the amount of assessment an application has to go through, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) instead immediately assessing the application and not the member state. The current legislation means that authorisation is linked to an individual applicant, which means only the applicant can benefit for the approval and other firms should put through their own applications before they can market similar products. Under the draft proposals, companies will not have their application protected from others using it unless they apply for exclusivity. To view the application for novel foods approval of D-Ribose, click here.