Food and feed safety vulnerabilities in the circular economy

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Circular economy (CE) is an approach that decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, designs out waste, and instead promotes an economic model based on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, in an (almost) closed loop. This extensive literature review identified and categorised CE practices within all stages of the food and feed production chain in Europe to provide an overview of current and envisaged practices. Four broad macro areas were identified within which CE practices are envisaged or currently used in Europe: primary production of food and feed; reducing industrial/manufacturing/processing waste; reducing food and feed waste in wholesale, food retail, catering and households; and reducing food and feed packaging waste. In each macro area, there were a variety of practices of interest regarding emerging risk to plant, animal, human health and the environment.

Following consultation with European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and wider stakeholders, a focused literature search was carried out to identify emerging risks to plant, animal, human health and the environment from ‘novel foods and feeds within the framework of CE’. The literature showed a bias towards research investigating the suitability of novel feeds in terms of animal productivity parameters rather than on emerging risks of novel food/feed for animal, human, plant health and the environment. Those studies that investigated risk were almost entirely focused on the biological and chemical hazards, risks to health, and environmental impacts of insects as food or feed and the substrates that they are reared on. Emerging risks are characterised and recommendations made for future research. We recommend that future primary research in novel food and feed in the CE focuses on areas other than insect farming, and that there are further investigations into the potential risks associated with importation into the EU of livestock/goods that may have been subject to different restrictions/legislation.

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