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High Court quashes Decision of the Foods Standards Agency and the Devolved Administrations stating that Monk Fruit is a ‘Novel Food’


R (Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation) v Food Standards Agency [2024] EWHC 614 (Admin)

The Administrative Court (Calver J) has quashed a decision of the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Wales stating that monk fruit decoctions are a ‘novel food’.

Monk fruit is a round fruit of the melon family, primarily cultivated in China, where it is known as luo han guo. It is characterised by its sweet flavour and is used as a sugar substitute in recipes.

The Administrative Court concluded that the Defendant agencies had misinterpreted and misapplied the Guidance they purported to follow in answering the statutory question of ‘novelty’, namely whether monk fruit decoctions had been consumed in significant quantities in the United Kingdom, or in the EU, prior to 1997.

Calver J ordered the defendant Agencies to re-consider their decision in light of the guidance given in the Court’s judgment and described as “misconceived” a submission on behalf of the defendants that the outcome of any reconsideration would be the same. The Court further concluded that evidence the defendant agencies had adduced late in the day in an attempt to explain their decision went beyond mere ‘elucidatory’ evidence. Instead, it sought “to re-write the reasoning contained in the Decision … so as to give a version of the reasoning in the Decision which cannot stand with the wording of the document itself, as well as the Agencies’ explanations of their reasoning pre and post Decision.” The evidence was to that extent held to be inadmissible.

The judgment is here.

David Scannell KC and Malcolm Birdling appeared for the successful Claimant, Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation, instructed by Covington & Burling LLP.