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Schofield Sweeney’s Dispute Resolution Team has successfully assisted a client to bring into the country a consignment of crackers and dippers containing chia seeds amongst their ingredients. This is despite the fact that the importing company did not hold an appropriate authorisation for the importation of food products containing chia seeds under the EU Novel Foods Regulations licensing regime.
A novel food is one which had not been sold to a significant degree in the EU prior to May 1997. Licensing arrangements are handled by the Novel Foods Section of the Food Standards Agency (“FSA”) and enforcement is handled by Port Health Authorities and local Trading Standards teams. Chia seed is a novel food within the EU Regulation, notwithstanding the fact that it was first used as a food as early as 3500BC and was one of the main dietary components in foods eaten by the Aztecs and the Mayans in pre-Columbian South and Central America.
The client was importing into the UK two container loads of sweet potato crackers, kale crackers and dippers which were to be part of a new product launch through a major supermarket chain destined for the end of August. The crackers and dippers were impounded at Liverpool by the Port Health Authority.
Schofield Sweeney were instructed to attempt to obtain an authorisation or derogation for the importation of these products and that involved a concentrated period of correspondence and liaison with FSA Headquarters in London, Port Health in Liverpool and the relevant Trading Standards Authority in Croydon.
In addition, Schofield Sweeney had to obtain information from the client’s supplier in California and the supplier of the chia seeds in Germany. Fortunately the Trading Standards team, which was responsible for making the final decision as to importation, was persuaded that Schofield Sweeney’s client could rely, for this consignment, on a German authorisation for the use of chia seeds in the EU. Within 11 working days of being instructed, Schofield Sweeney obtained the release of the foodstuffs in time for the supermarket’s product launch.