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EU update on colours, sweeteners, additives

May 2008

The lead Environment Committee (ENVI) in the European Parliament has now adopted its amendments to the proposed legislation package for food additives/enzymes and flavourings.

Points of particular interest include:

  • ADDITIVES — AZO colours:  The Committee added a clause that if there is evidence that a specific additive may cause undesirable side-effects (AZO dyes were quoted as an example), the Commission, in consultation with Member States, should take immediate action to ban such a substance.  An amendment requiring that the labelling of food additives containing AZO dyes should carry a warning label was re-introduced despite rejection at first reading by the Commission because such labeling is outside the scope of this Regulation.
  • ENZYMES: The Council of Ministers had already excluded enzymes for nutritional purposes from the scope of the regulation; the European Parliament Committee also excluded 'enzymes for digestive purposes.'
  • FLAVOURS: The Committee's view was that the adoption of the Community list of flavours should be postponed from 31 December 2008 to 31 December 2010 and should only be adopted after the completion of the evaluation program.
  • Use of the term 'Natural': The Committee's view was that 100% of the source material should be obtained from natural sources, thus removing several specific requirements relating to the percentage of source material to be derived from natural sources.
  • Herbs and Spices:  The Committee excluded herbs and spices from the scope of the regulation. It also reversed the proposed system on maximum levels: no maximum level is to be defined unless the European Food Safety Authority assesses the harmfulness of certain naturally occurring undesirable substances.

In relation to children, the overall view of the Committee is that sweeteners and colours should not be allowed in foods aimed at children, and that additives should only be used if they provide an advantage to the consumer.

The European Parliament is expected to vote in Plenary on this issue in July.

Source: EHPM European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers;


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