The interest in microalgae as food in Europe is growing due to its remarkable features that can foster a sustainable economy. The lack of tradition on their use among Europeans is changing and a demand for more sustainable products is increasing. The legal framework from the microalgae stakeholders’ point of view has been consistently identified as a bottleneck, regardless of its nutritional value and potential to provide added-value metabolites. Microalgae-based products have been mostly consumed as food supplements, which are characterized by some general uncertainty with regards to food security of products sourced from non-European countries. The novel foods regulation is a landmark in Europe’s food law defining the conditions in which a new type of food can be commercialized. Currently, a more simplified and centralized version is in place, and around eleven microalgae-based products are on the market; however, more than half are represented by sp. derived products (DHA-rich oil). Microalgae have immense potential as a sustainable food source; nonetheless, there is limited experience in assessing the safety of these microorganisms, considering the uncertainty around undesirable substances present in the way they are produced and their diverse metabolites. Here, we overview the regulatory use of microalgae as food in Europe with a focus on market introduction, highlighting the administrative procedures and scientific requirements to assess food safety. We also discuss the implications of the Transparency regulation related to microalgae as novel foods and provide considerations for a more solid interaction between academia and industry.
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