The aim of the 4 draft reports is to simplify and update EU rules for authorising food additives, flavourings and enzymes.

A common authorisation procedure

The first regulation lays down an EU-level common authorisation procedure for additives, enzymes and flavourings and is drafted by MEP Åsa Westlund(PES). The regulation will contribute to the free movement of food within the EU and to the protection of human health and consumer interests.

Community authorisation will be granted in a transparent, centralised manner on the basis of a scientific opinion by EFSA, provided the authorisation criteria set out in the sectoral food laws are met. Authorisation will take the form of a regulation adopted under comitology rules. EFSA will have nine months to give its opinion, not six as the Council wanted. The Commission will have a further nine months to submit a draft regulation to include the new substance in the relevant Community list.

Food additives

The second regulation, also drafted by Åsa Westlund(PES), deals with additive such as sweeteners, colourings, preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, gelling agents and packaging gases.

The legislation states that a food additive may be authorized only if:
- it is safe in use
- there is a technological need for its use
- if its use does not mislead the consumer
- it has advantages and benefits to consumers

Food additives will be completely banned in unprocessed food, as will sweeteners and colourings in food for babies and small children, except when specifically included in the Community list. Member States may continue to prohibit the use of certain categories of food additives in traditional foods produced on their territory.

As new scientific data on health risks for children exposed to azo-dyes had emerged since Parliament’s first reading, MEPs managed to include in the compromise a new provision that foods containing some of those food colours (colourings tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129) must be labelled not only with the relevant E number but also with the warning "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children". Manufacturers have eighteen months to comply with the new labelling requirements following the official publication of the law, which is expected within the next few weeks. Companies will have to decide whether to continue to use the additives and suffer the effects the warning might have on sales, or invest in reformulation. Many large companies have already made pledges to remove all artificial colourings from their products. To read earlier EPHA article on the azo dyes click here.

Flavourings

The report on flavourings] is drafted by [Mojca Drčar Murko (ALDE, SI)http://www.europarl.europa.eu/membe...]. The new legislation introduces stricter conditions for the use of the term “natural” when describing flavourings. The compromise adds a recital stating that where possible, attention should be given to the effect of flavourings on vulnerable groups and that flavourings should not mislead the consumer.

The new legislation sets out clearer rules on maximum levels for "undesirable substances" that might be present in flavourings due to their natural occurrence in plants traditionally used as food or food ingredients. The limits will not apply to certain substances if the only flavouring ingredients added are fresh, dried or frozen herbs and spices (an example is pesto sauce). This exception will cover not only food prepared in restaurants (as proposed by Council) but also, thanks to Parliament, industrially processed food.

To read an interview with Mojca Drčar Murko on this specific report please click here

Enzymes

Under the new legislation, harmonised EU rules would be laid down for the evaluation, approval and control of enzymes used in food. As with additives, under the new rules enzymes will be authorised only if they do not mislead the consumer. The compromise specifies that misleading the consumer relates to the freshness, nature and quality of ingredients and the naturalness and nutritional quality of the product. Avril Doyle (EPP-ED, IE) drafted the EP report on enzymes. Speaking in the debate on Monday 7 July, Avril Doyle said: ""It is the first time that we have an EU- legislation on enzymes. Until now only three Member States - UK, France and Denmark - have their own risk assessment for enzymes ... the new harmonised rules will increase food safety and give more choice to consumers."

How will the system work?

In parallel to the authorisation procedure for new additives, flavourings and enzymes, all such substances already on the market - around 300 additives and 2,600 flavourings - will gradually be re-assessed. Additives/flavourings/enzymes that are currently authorised may stay on the market but once the updating process is complete, any such substance not on the approved list will be banned.


For more information:

- Report on the common authorisation procedure

- Report on food aditives

- Report on flavourings

- Report on enzymes

- Article on the new regulation on flavourings

- DG SANCO website on food safety

- EFSA website

EPHA related articles

-  Food additives such as ’Azo dyes’ require a warning label.

- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Work Plan 2008

- British Fluoridation Society calls for allowing the addition of fluorides to foods

- article 158

Last modified on August 5 2008.