High Court clarifies evidential standards for 'novel foods' in Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation v Food Standards Agency

Citation: [2024] EWHC 614 (Admin)
Judgment on


In the case of Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation v Food Standards Agency, the High Court of Justice examined the legal principles relating to the concept of ‘novel foods’, as defined under retained EU Law, particularly Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 as well as the subsequent relevant guidance and implementing regulations. The claimant challenged the joint decision by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) that its monk fruit products constituted a ‘novel food’. The case addressed the evidential standards required to demonstrate a history of significant consumption before a certain date, which would negate the ‘novel’ status of a food product under the applicable regulations.

Key Facts

The claimant, a major producer of monk fruit products, argued that their products should not be considered ‘novel’ under Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 since they had been consumed to a significant degree within the EU before May 15, 1997. The FSA and FSS, however, decided that the claimant did not provide sufficient evidence to substantiate this claim. The claimant brought a claim for judicial review challenging this decision.

Several legal principles were pivotal in the case:

  1. Evidential Standards for Establishing Significant History of Consumption: The core issue was the interpretation of the term ‘significant degree’ of food consumption before the specified date. The court analyzed the Guidance on the determination of novelty, which suggests that ‘extensive sales data’ is not always necessary and that alternative sources, such as personal testimonies and surveys, could be considered.

  2. Elucidation vs. Fundamental Alteration of Reasons: The admissibility of post-hoc rationalizations of administrative decisions follows the principle in Ermakov and Nash, which allows for evidence to elucidate but not to contradict or fundamentally alter the stated reasons for a decision.

  3. Judicial Review as the Appropriate Remedy: The court examined whether re-assessment or a different application (e.g., for traditional foods) could be an alternative to judicial review, ultimately determining that the appropriate course was to quash the decision and order a re-consideration.

  4. Discretionary Refusal of Relief: Following Ermakov, the court recognized that in cases where the reasons for a decision are flawed, relief should not be refused based on new reasons brought after the commencement of proceedings, barring exceptional circumstances.


The High Court found that the Agencies had erroneously applied a bright-line standard not supported by the legislation, categorizing the claimant’s evidence as merely ‘supporting’ and not sufficient to indicate a significant history of consumption. This rigid interpretation violated the principle that all evidence must be assessed on its merits. The decision of the FSA and FSS was quashed, and the case was remanded for the Agencies to reconsider the claimant’s application according to the correct standard.


The judgment in Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation v Food Standards Agency clarifies the legal standards for evidence required to establish a food product’s history of significant consumption. It underscores the importance of reviewing the entire pool of evidence, rather than applying a rigid and hierarchical lens to different categories of evidence. For UK lawyers involved in food regulation disputes, this case underlines the necessity of a flexible and comprehensive evidence assessment when dealing with the determination of ‘novel food’ status. Moreover, it illustrates the limits of admissible explanations for administrative decisions in judicial review proceedings.