MEPs rejected firm bans on colourings in favour of stronger labelling systems, although Green MEPs regretted that these will not cover GMO additives.

Parliament's final report on food additives, adopted on 8 July, underlines that sweeteners, colourings, preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, gelling agents and packaging gases can only be authorised if they are safe for consumers and if there is a technological need for their use. In addition, additives need to present "advantages and benefits to consumers".

The Environment Committee's recommendation for a ban on bright colouring additives in food - which came after scientific research found that they can cause hyperactivity in children (see EurActiv 07/05/2008) - did not get the House's approval.

Instead, MEPs agreed that foods containing some of those colours must, in addition to the traditional E number, carry a label stating that the product "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children". 

Furthermore, the Parliament stressed that a food additive can only be authorised if it is safe to use, if there is a technological need for its use and if its use does not mislead the consumer. 

Regarding nanotechnology in food additives, the House did not stick to its first reading call for separate limit values for nanotech. Instead, the legislation now states that a new authorisation process and safety evaluation must be carried out if an additive's production process is changed.

The report on flavourings, which are used to modify the smell and taste of foodstuffs, introduces stricter rules for the use of the term 'natural' when describing flavourings. A flavouring shall be deemed 'natural' only if 95% of its element is of natural origin. This is a slightly stricter limit than the 90% proposed by the Commission. 

The new legislation also sets stricter rules on the level of toxins in "certain food ingredients with flavouring properties" such as herbs and spices. However, the Parliament ruled that these limits will not apply to fresh, dried or frozen herbs and spices used either in restaurants or in industrially-processed food. The Commission had proposed only exempting the restaurants.

As for enzymes, used in foodstuffs as an alternative to chemicals to improve texture, appearance and nutritional value, the House ruled that they can only be authorised if they do not mislead consumers regarding the freshness, nature and quality of the products or their naturalness and nutritional quality.