Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Letter, 25 July 2002

NOVEL FOODS - Proposal to prohibit the sale of foods containing or consisting of kava kava (Piper methysticum)

In December 2001 the Food Standards Agency issued advice to consumers to avoid consuming food products containing kava kava, supported the industry's voluntary withdrawal of kava kava foods from the market pending receipt of further safety information and issued a Category 'D' Food Hazard Warning Notice to Local Authorities providing information about kava kava products.

Recently evidence has emerged that, in rare cases, use of products containing the herbal ingredient kava kava may be associated with liver toxicity. The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) is proposing to take action to prohibit medicinal products containing kava kava. The Food Standards Agency is considering what action should be taken in relation to foods containing or consisting of kava kava.

At this time the FSA are again asking relevant food businesses to withdraw any remaining kava kava food products from the market. On Friday 18th July they reiterated advice to consumers to avoid any food products containing kava kava and issued another category 'D' Food Hazard Warning updating Local Authority enforcement officers on their proposed plans.

In the interests of protecting public health, the FSA are considering the options for action which are set out in section 3 of the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) [circulated with the letter and available on the FSA web site]. Of these, option d) would involve our recommending to the Secretary of State that he bring in legislation to prohibit the sale, possession for sale or offer, exposure or advertisement for sale, or importation into England from a country outside the UK, of any food consisting of, or containing kava kava. A draft of such a measure (The Kava-kava in Food (England) Regulations 2002) was also circulated with the letter.

On the basis of the information currently available to the FSA option d) is their preferred option. However, they shall only finalise their position following this consultation and a decision on what action to take will be made after consideration of all the comments received. If, after consideration of comments received, the FSA consider that it is necessary to bring in the proposed legislation in order to protect public health, their recommendation to the Secretary of State will be that he make the Regulations as soon as possible. Please note, however, that any decision made with respect to kava kava will be kept under review and may be subject to change in the light of further evidence obtained.

The FSA invite comments on both the draft proposed Regulations and on the partial RIA. In particular they would welcome comments on the types of the businesses, charities and voluntary organisations that would be affected if the Regulations were to come into force, any associated financial costs or benefits for such businesses and other organisations and any information on the identity of kava kava food products that are on the market at present.

Comments are required by 27 September 2002.

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